China's death toll from smoking could triple over the next two decades, says report

A man smokes a cigarette.

TEXT OF STORY

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: Now the global perspective, what's happening in business and economics at the intersection of the U.S. and the rest of the world. Staying on the health care theme, but moving over to China -- where a new report says that country's annual death toll from smoking could triple over the next two decades. The biggest obstacle in preventing those deaths? The Chinese government itself.

Marketplace China Bureau Chief Rob Schmitz reports.


ROB SCHMITZ: The report comes just a couple of days before a World Health Organization deadline China agreed to that aims to ban smoking in all indoor public spaces, workplaces, and public transportation by this Sunday.

But as of Friday at my favorite noodle shop in Shanghai, most of my fellow patrons were puffing away, making the place look like a sauna, and doing a number on my lungs.

China has obviously fallen short with the smoking ban, which was supposed to outlaw cigarette advertising, too. Health advocates say the $90 billion tobacco industry is too lucrative for China's state-owned enterprises for Beijing to do anything to solve the problem. Dr. Sarah England of the World Health Organization is trying to convince Beijing otherwise.

SARAH ENGLAND: The tax revenue from tobacco is only half the economic argument. There's also the other side of the coin which is the productivity impact, the medical cost.

And with the average price on a pack of cigarettes at 76 cents, when it comes to a ban, few here are holding their breath, unless they're non-smokers in a roomful of smoke.

In Shanghai, I'm Rob Schmitz, for Marketplace.

About the author

Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent in Shanghai.

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