Background China consumes about 40% of the world's cigarettes, predominantly by men, following a large increase in recent decades. We assess sex-specific prevalence and changing patterns of smoking in Chinese adults in the current decade.
Methods A nationally representative survey of smoking was conducted in 2010 among 100 000 Chinese adults aged ≥18 years, using a multistage stratified cluster sampling method. Information on smoking frequency, type, amount, age started and quitting was collected. Sex-specific standardised prevalence and means were analysed and compared with estimates in the 1996 national survey.
Results In Chinese men aged ≥18, 62.4% were ever-smokers in 2010, including 54.0% current smokers and 8.4% ex-smokers. The smoking prevalence was higher in rural than in urban men (63.9% vs 58.4%). In younger men, the age to start smoking was earlier and exclusive cigarette use was much higher. Among current smokers, only 17.3% intended to quit. Compared with a similar survey in 1996 among adults aged 30–69, more smokers had quit in 2010 than in 1996 (11.0% vs 4.2%), but the number of cigarettes smoked per current smoker was higher (17.9 vs 15.2). In Chinese women, only 3.4% ever smoked and there has been a large intergenerational decrease in smoking uptake rates. In 2010, there were 318 million current smokers in China, consuming an estimated 1740 billion cigarettes.
Conclusions The prevalence of smoking remained extremely high in men, but low and falling in Chinese women. Tobacco smoking remains an important public health issue in China, and stronger and more efficient tobacco control is urgently needed.
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SL, MZh, LY contributed equally.
Contributors SL, MZh and LY are joint first authors. ZCh and MZh designed the study. MZh, YL, LW, ZH and LW collected the data. MZh and YL were involved in data cleaning. SL analysed the data and drafted the manuscript. ZCh and MZh contributed to the interpretation of the results and critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content and approved the final version of the manuscript. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript. ZCh and MZh are the study guarantors.
Funding This work was supported by China's Central Government.
Competing interests None declared.
Ethics approval The National Health and Family Planning Commission (previously the Ministry of Health) of China and the Ethics Committee of Chinese CDC.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.