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Smoking habit may cripple China social security

(Xinhua)

08:10, July 13, 2012

BEIJING, July 12 (Xinhua) -- The rising medical costs linked to tobacco-related sickness and deaths, along with the aging of the Chinese population, may cripple the country's social security system in just two decades, a tobacco control official warned Thursday.

Tobacco-linked deaths have been on the rise over the past decade and are expected to reach a peak between 2025 and 2030, a time when China will overtake Japan as the world's most aged society, said Liang Xiaofeng, deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The combination of the two will strain the country's social security system, Liang, who is also director of the center's tobacco control office, said at a forum in Beijing.

Health care and other smoking-related costs exceeded the tobacco industry's economic gains by 61.8 billion yuan (9.8 billion U.S. dollars) in 2010, according to research by Hu Angang, director of the Research Center for Contemporary China at Tsinghua University.

Tobacco use is one of the leading preventable causes of death in the world. It kills nearly six million people worldwide each year, including more than 600,000 who die from exposure to second-hand smoke.

Each year, it kills over one million people in China, where nearly 30 percent of adults, or more than 300 million, smoke. Another 740 million people are exposed to second-hand smoke annually.

Three-quarters of Chinese are not fully aware of the harm caused by smoking, while two-thirds do not know about the dangers of second-hand smoke, according to a report released by the Ministry of Health (MOH) earlier this year.

The MOH report warned that more than three million Chinese will die of smoking-related illnesses annually by 2050 if no measures are taken.

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