‘Smoking Kills’: How Tobacco Use Continues to Hurt Poverty in China


BEIJING — In China, tobacco use continues to bury low-income families even further beneath the poverty line, inhibiting the progression of China’s goal of eliminating poverty and building a prosperous society by 2020. A study published by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Development Program states that tobacco use has diverted household funds away from basic necessities that are crucial in leading a healthy and successful life, such as food, education, medical care and insurance.

In 2015, China’s tobacco industry recorded $160 billion in profits. With approximately 44 percent of the world’s cigarettes being smoked within the country, this tobacco use has contributed to the devastating poverty in China and rapid rates of non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes.

The treatment of related diseases such as lung cancer can be detrimental to many struggling families, especially for those whose public health insurance does not cover the full cost of treatment. The World Health Organization found that the death of a smoking wage-earner resulted in an average yearly loss of income of $137 for rural households and $370 for urban households, thus provoking additional poverty in China.

The study also states that habitual smoking in China is set to kill more than 200 million people this century, primarily due to cigarettes becoming increasingly more affordable. A 50 percent tax increase on cigarettes could see 47 million fewer male smokers and 20 million fewer premature deaths over 50 years.

In regards to alleviating this problem, China has done very little to control tobacco use throughout the country. As the world’s largest tobacco market, China has yet to pass a national law to ban smoking in public places, with only 18 of more than 600 cities across the country implementing smoking control regulations.

Mao Qunan, a spokesman for the National Health and Family Commission, China’s health authority, said that the public’s lack of awareness of the dangers of smoking is the biggest obstacle in the potential passing of legislation for a national ban.

Unfortunately, not only does buying tobacco products deprive families of the resources they need to rise out of poverty, but tobacco use has affected the country’s goals of becoming a more prosperous nation by 2020. In passing appropriate legislation and limiting tobacco use throughout the country, it will help China in continuing to raise struggling families out of poverty, thus developing the country into a more successful and thriving nation.

Brandon Johnson

Photo: Flickr


About Author

Brandon Johnson

Brandon writes for The Borgen Project from Lawrence, KS. He was born and raised in Las Vegas, NV. Brandon's academic interests include Communications/Journalism. He loves music, has been playing drums since he was 13 and has attended 30+ concerts.

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