Anti-smoking advocates have a new frontier to conquer: China. No country on earth has more smokers; in fact, with 350 million smokers, China has more smokers than the U.S. has people.
Cigarettes are part of the culture in China and are often the gift of choice for weddings and other special occasions. With such a large market China has become both the largest producer and manufacturer of tobacco in the world and cigarettes are marketed very effectively, as packs are decorated with traditional Chinese symbols like the Great Wall, the Tiananman Gate, dragons and pandas.
But, China's affinity for tobacco is taking a toll on the health of its people. One million deaths a year in China are now attributed to smoking-related illnesses, and it's difficult for people to quit because smoking is viewed as a social activity in China. The government has taken some actions to combat smoking, but progress has been slow because the Chinese health ministry is weak and does not have a large budget for anti-smoking campaigns. The tobacco industry is very powerful and has a lot of control over the government, and tobacco farmers depend on the crop for their livelihoods.
The smoking issue may be a complicated one in China, but the statistics paint a clear picture: Anti-smoking advocates predict that, by 2020, two million Chinese will die annually from using tobacco.
"A lot of men start smoking in the workplace, because they get offered cigarettes by their bosses or by other colleagues. And it somehow seems very rude not to accept. So, in China, you don't see so much people smoking a cigarette by themselves. It's very much a social thing." - Susan Lawrence, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
"If China wants to build a modern economy, we need to break the monopoly system. There are only a few monopolies left in China, and tobacco is one. When it's a monopoly, the government has its own interests, so they're not willing to do tobacco control." - Dr. Yang Gonghuan, director, China National Office of Tobacco Control
"Our family depends on the field, and the field depends on the tobacco, especially when there is no food and we need the money to buy food for the family." - Xian Xu, tobacco farmer
1. What are the health dangers associated with smoking? Why do people smoke?
2. What kind of government does China have?
1. According to the video, why is smoking such a complicated issue in China? Why is it hard to launch an anti-smoking campaign?
2. How does the attitude toward smoking in China compare to the attitude in the U.S.? How do you think people view smoking in the U.S., in general?
3. What might be the problem with an industry, like the tobacco industry, having a lot of power in the government?