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Commentary on Liu et al, ‘Prevalence and patterns of tobacco smoking among Chinese adult men and women: findings of 2010 national smoking survey’
  1. Steven D Stellman
  1. Correspondence to Dr Steven D Stellman, Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA; sds91{at}columbia.edu

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I first became cognizant of the massive public health problem of tobacco use in China at a 1985 IARC conference in Moscow organised by David Zaridze and Richard Peto (later Sir Richard), where Yu-Tang Gao of the Shanghai Cancer Institute reported that “about half of the male adults in Shanghai are smokers.”1 Smoking prevalence in the USA had not been that high since the early 1970s; by 1985 it was 36.8% in US white males2 and only 23.6% in more than half a million male participants in Cancer Prevention Study 2.3

The Liu study

In this issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, Liu et al4 show that smoking prevalence in China has remained relentlessly high, with 54% of men current smokers and only 8.4% ex-smokers. Although this is an improvement over the prevalence of 63% in a 1996 survey, it still has ominous implications for life expectancy, burdens on the healthcare system, social relationships in families and the broader economy. Given China's place as the world's most …

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