SCMP Thursday, August 16, 2001

Mainland sitting on health time bomb, experts warn and REUTERS in London

Last updated at 2.27pm:
A third of all middle-aged male deaths in the SAR are caused by smoking and this pattern could well be repeated in the mainland, a survey revealed on Thursday.
In the largest survey of its kind, researchers from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong discovered that in 1998, tobacco caused about 33 per cent of deaths of men between the ages of 35 and 69 in the territory.
Information was collected from 27,507 dead people and 13,054 living controls for the research, which was published in the respected the British Medical Journal.
The team, led by Professor T.H. Lam, argues that cigarette smoking in Hong Kong peaked 20 years earlier than in mainland China, indicating an explosion of tobacco-related deaths likely to ensue there in years to come.
''Unless there is widespread cessation by adults who already smoke, we predict a large increase in deaths attributable to tobacco in China over the next few decades,'' the researchers said in the journal.
Two thirds of all young men in the mainland become smokers. Half of those who do not give up will eventually die from their habit, the team said.
''Thus, on present smoking patterns about one third of all the young men in China will eventually be killed by tobacco,'' they said.
For women, the news is not so grim. Only five per cent of all female deaths in Hong Kong in 1998 were related to smoking and in the mainland few young women take up the habit.
Western cigarette firms are eyeing the potentially huge Chinese market after the country's expected entry into the World Trade Organisation.
China is thought to have more than 300 million smokers.