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Quarter of Chinese adults aware of smoking risk: survey
BEIJING (Reuters) - Only a quarter of Chinese people believe smoking tobacco increases the risk of cancer and anti-smoking campaigns are failing to influence them, a government survey released on Tuesday showed.
Three quarters of people in China are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke, often in the workplace, in a country that puffs its way through around a third of the world's cigarettes.
The survey, carried out by the country's Center for Disease Control and Prevention, showed that barely one in four adults believes smoking increases the risks of lung cancer, strokes and heart attacks.
In a country where 301 million people smoke, only 16 percent of current smokers are looking to quit in the coming year, perhaps due to a lack of understanding about the dangers.
Over half of Chinese men smoke, compared to just 2.4 percent of women, according to the China section of the "Global Adult Tobacco Survey," covering 16 low-income and middle-income countries home to over half the world's smokers.
A million people die each year from smoking-related illnesses, yet China's Ministry of Health only banned smoking in hospitals this May and health advocates say a promised national ban on smoking in public places has yet to take shape.
"Chronic conditions now constitute the lion's share of the burden of disease in China, and tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of death and disease," said the World Health Organization's China representative, Michael O'Leary, in response to the new data.
Both anti-smoking campaigns and cigarettes ads had little impact on most people, the survey found. Only one in five remembered seeing marketing, and less than half noticed health warnings on television or radio.
The death toll from smoking is expected to increase to two million by 2020, according to a study by the Paris-based International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.
Less smoking could reduce smoking-related health costs, but would also hurt government revenues, as the tobacco industry still provides a steady flow of government income.
Last year a county government in central China ordered government workers to smoke a combined minimum of 23,000 packs of cigarettes a year to boost tax income, with punishments for those who failed to light up enough or puffed the wrong brands.
The order was revoked after it created uproar in the media.
(Reporting by Emma Graham-Harrison; editing by Nina Chestney)
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