Public health advocates in China are hoping a new report predicting a tripling in the number of smoking related-deaths will be a wake-up call for the government.
The study, published in The Lancet medical journal, said the number of people dying every year from tobacco-related deaths would reach 3 million by 2050.
Wu Yiqun, a longtime advocate of tobacco control from the Research Centre for Health Development in Beijing, said the findings should spur more concrete action.
“We need to fully implement regulations on tobacco advertising,” she said.
“In the past 10 years we have made some progress, but compared to other countries, our progress isn’t enough.
“The government should financially support tobacco control measures, and that could be done through imposing more tax and increasing the price of cigarettes.”
Beijing tobacco retailers say cigarettes are cheap, with most customers paying just $2 to $3 a packet.
Recent indoor smoking bans have been seen as a sign authorities are taking the issue seriously. Beijing’s city government introduced an indoor smoking ban in June.
But critics say little will change as long as state-owned companies continue to run the industry.
The Chinese National Tobacco corporation runs a state monopoly on the industry, which brings in roughly 7 per cent of central government revenue.
“On one hand the government manufactures and markets the cigarettes, on the other hand it is the body that carries out tobacco control, which means it is a fight between the left hand and the right hand,” Ms Wu said.
The study found two out of three Chinese men smoke.
The high rate is leading to 1 million deaths per year from tobacco-related causes.