Smoking in China

BMJ 1995; 310 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.310.6971.61a (Published 07 January 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;310:61
  1. Tsung O Cheng
  1. Professor of medicine Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, George Washington University, 2150 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20037, USA

    EDITOR,—I was heartened by the titles of the Editor's Choice and Ronald M Davis's editorial1 in the issue of 8 October, which is dominated by articles on smoking. I wish to point out, however, that it is not enough just to slow the march of the Marlboro man; we should eliminate him altogether. After a letter that I wrote, entitled “Marlboro man,”2 was published in the Medical Journal of Australia2 I received quite a bit of hate mail.

    During my latest visit to China, last June, I saw a photograph on the wall of the observatory opposite the tall television tower in Wuhan of the tower with a conspicuous sign advertising KENT painted on it. But when I looked at the tower itself the sign had disappeared. Apparently, a month earlier Dr M Z Chen, minister of public health in China, had visited Wuhan, seen the sign, and ordered its immediate removal.

    Although we bemoan the deplorable statistics cited by Peto that one of every three cigarettes manufactured in the world is consumed by people in China,3 we can take pride in the strong antismoking campaign that Minister Chen has been waging.4 He is, however, fighting an uphill battle, because Mao Zedong was, and Deng Xiaoping is, a heavy cigarette smoker. But I was interested to note that in a newspaper that published a photograph of Deng smoking there was an equally prominent antismoking slogan printed on the next page, which said in Chinese, “Every time you smoke a cigarette you shorten your life by five minutes.” Nowadays, all the cigarettes in China have to carry the same health hazard warning, whether in English or in Chinese, on their packaging (figure). So there is hope that “a smoke-free hospital can be achieved in China by year 2000.”4


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