WASHINGTON - Almost 13 million lives could be saved by 2050 in China if the country implements comprehensive tobacco control recommendations set forth by the World Health Organization (WHO).
That is the conclusion of a study led by Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) researchers published online today in the British Medical Journal.
China is the most populous nation in the world and is home to about a third of the world's smokers, with male smoking rates of greater than 50 percent. China is also the world's largest tobacco product manufacturer through a government-owned tobacco company.
In 2003, China joined the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which mandates a comprehensive set of tobacco control policies including surveillance and monitoring of tobacco use prevalence, creation of smoke-free environments, treatment of tobacco dependence, tobacco consumption taxation and other price controls, enforcement of heath warnings on tobacco packages and marketing bans.
"If the status quo is maintained, China faces a tremendous health burden in the next four decades that could result in more than 50 million deaths related to smoking," says David T. Levy, PhD, a population scientist at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, a part of GUMC. "If the country completely implemented the WHO FCTC policies, almost 13 million deaths would be averted and smoking rates would be reduced by about 40 percent."
Levy and his colleagues utilized a computer simulation program called SimSmoke to model tobacco smoking prevalence, smoking-attributable death and the impact of tobacco control policies between 2015 and 2050. The researchers analyzed data including China's adult population, current and former smoking prevalence, initiation and cessation rates and past policy levels.
Levy says that according to SimSmoke, raising taxes on tobacco products would have the greatest impact on reducing smoking rates.
"In 2009, China raised the tax on tobacco by almost 12 percent, but the increased cost was not passed along to consumers," Levy explains. "If China raised the taxes to 75 percent of the package price and increased the price commensurately, there would be a decrease in smoking of 10 percent within three years."
China has banned smoking on public transportation. The country has implemented weak tobacco dependence treatment programs and some advertising bansthat are weakly enforced, according to Levy. These policies do not meet the FCTC requirements, he says.
"Some of the WHO FCTC policies will cost money to implement, but taxation policies and strong health warnings in particular would be cost effective," Levy says.
In addition to Levy, co-authors of the study include Ricardo L Rodríguez-Buño, Andrew E. Moran and Teh-Wei Hu. The authors report having no personal financial interests related to the study.
Funding for the study was provided by the National Cancer Institute and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, both part of the National Institutes of Health (1R01TW009295-01, UO1-CA97450-02, 1R01TW009295-01, K08 HL089675-01A1), the Fogarty International Center, the European Commission and Bloomberg Philanthropies.
About Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center
Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of Georgetown University Medical Center and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, seeks to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer through innovative basic and clinical research, patient care, community education and outreach, and the training of cancer specialists of the future. Georgetown Lombardi is one of only 41 comprehensive cancer centers in the nation, as designated by the National Cancer Institute (grant #P30 CA051008), and the only one in the Washington, DC area. For more information, go to http://lombardi.
About Georgetown University Medical Center
Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through MedStar Health). GUMC's mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis -- or "care of the whole person." The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing & Health Studies, both nationally ranked; Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, designated as a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute; and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization, which accounts for the majority of externally funded research at GUMC including a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health.