Not long ago, cigarette companies with dwindling revenues in the United States and Europe, set their sights on Asia as their new, emerging market. All of Asia, from India to China has staggering numbers of smokers.
Today more than 350 million people in China smoke, although at first look, the number seems to be much higher
Either way, China has a problem. A health crisis problem.
The Chinese health authorities have announced new and unprecedented measures to curb smoking, or at least to bring awareness to those millions who do smoke that the habit is deadly.
The measures include a ban on public smoking nationwide.
The measures are part of the Communist Party's agenda to try to improve the quality of life of the Chinese along with increased prosperity. Another concern is life expectancy and health care costs. Althugh China does not yet have a social medicine network for everyone, those who seek medical attention do so in part at the government's expense.
In China, over 1,000,000 people die from smoke related ilnesses each year. That number could triple by 2050 is the vice is not curbed.
However, the Chinese have in the past rresisted any attempt at public bans, so that the new measures could fail again.
At heart is the problem of smoking as a privilege, a widespread perception that could hinder any efforts at curtailing the habit. In social situations, smoking is almost a must, a bonding activity, like eating. That also skews the numbers of smoking related illnesses boldly toward the male sex, since 63% of men smoke in China, while only 4% of women do.
What advocates of a smoke free China suggest, is that a campaign of information and education on the ills of smoking be undertaken before any law or ban is enforced. Most of the Chinese population is not highly educated and only 25% are aware or knowledgeable of smoking's deadly consequences.
The other problem is that there is a little bit of a rebellious instinct in the Chinese for bans and other measures that restrict their liberties.
Smoking is big business in China. The State Owned Tobacco companies rake in 19 billions in profits yearly, which is more than the three biggest world tobacco companies' combined.
At stake then is also the perception that the State cannot possibly be playing it fair when it treis to curb smoking when it has, for decades, and does still, profit handsomely from the sale of tobacco.
Source : MSNBC/ 1.18.14