New data on tobacco use in China can help fight epidemic, says WHO

News release

SHENZHEN, China, 17 August 2010 –The World Health Organization today welcomed the publication of new data on adult tobacco use and key tobacco control measures in China – information that could help formulate effective responses to this growing epidemic.

The data were the result of the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) in China, a nationally representative household survey of men and women aged 15 years and older. From October 2009 to May 2010, a total of 13,354 individuals across China took part in the survey that used a global standardized methodology based on international best practice. Information was gathered on prevalence of tobacco use, smoking cessation, second-hand smoke exposure, economics, media, public knowledge and perceptions. The resulting data were unveiled on Tuesday by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC), which conducted the survey and collated the information. Among the key findings is that nearly one-third (28.1%) of the Chinese population smokes, including 52.9% of men and 2.4% of women. More than half (52.7%) of smokers aged 20-34 years started smoking daily before the age of 20. In a typical week, 70% of adults are exposed to second-hand smoke. Nearly one-quarter of adults believe smoking and exposure to smoke causes stroke, heart attack and lung cancer.

"China's longstanding high prevalence of tobacco addiction deserves the same level of concern as an outbreak of SARS or H1N1," said WHO's Representative in China, Dr Michael O'Leary. "Chronic conditions now constitute the lion's share of the burden of disease in China, and tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of death and disease."

Recognising the importance of health information in tackling this problem, WHO provided technical support to the GATS in China, together with the U.S. CDC, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and RTI (Research Triangle Institute) International. Financial support was provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as part of the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use.

"Now is the time to feed the new data from GATS into the planning process to inform the full implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control," said WHO's Dr O'Leary, referring to the pre-eminent global tobacco control instrument.

To help Member States implement the tobacco demand reduction elements of the WHO FCTC, WHO has proposed a package of six effective, proven tobacco control measures called MPOWER: monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies; protecting people from tobacco smoke; offering help to quit tobacco use; warning about the dangers of tobacco; enforcing bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and raising taxes on tobacco.

Globally, GATS is being implemented in 14 low- and middle-income countries where more than half of the world’s smokers live and that bear the highest burden of tobacco use: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Russian Federation, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay and Vietnam.

Results from GATS assist countries in the formulation, tracking and implementation of effective tobacco control interventions, and countries are able to compare results of their survey with results from other countries.

For more information, please contact:
Vivian Tan
Communications Officer
WHO China
Tel: +86 10 6532 7191
Mobile: +86 139 1120 5167