The Global Toll of Tobacco


Chart showing prevalence of tobacco use in China, 2002)Consumption

  • Approximately one-third of adults in China smoke (28 percent).
  • Smoking rates are much higher among men than women; an estimated 53 percent of men and 2.4 percent of women smoke.
  • Among 14 year olds, 11 percent of boys and 3 percent of girls smoke.

Chart showing tobacco use among youth in China, 2005) Health Consequences

  • In China, approximately one million smokers die each year from tobacco-related diseases, and approximately 100,000 people die each year from exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • If current trends continue, China’s death toll from tobacco will reach 2 million per year by 2020.

Tobacco Industry

China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of tobacco. The Chinese tobacco market is dominated by the government monopoly China National Tobacco Corporation (CNTC). CNTC holds 98 percent of the Chinese market. CNTC sold more than 2.1 trillion cigarettes in 2008.

Illicit Trade

China is the largest source of illicit cigarettes in the world, producing an estimated 400 billion counterfeit cigarettes every year. Ninety-nine percent of the United States illicit cigarette market and up to 80 percent of the European Union’s illicit cigarette market is supplied by China.

Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) Status

China ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on August 28, 2005 and the treaty went into effect on January 9, 2006.

Tobacco Control Policy Status

Smoke-free environments: China does not have comprehensive national smoke-free legislation. Patchwork legislation bans smoking in specific places, such as on board airplanes. Sub-national jurisdictions have the authority to implement local smoke-free policies.

Advertising, promotion and sponsorship: A national law bans tobacco advertising on movie, television, radio, and in newspapers and magazines. Local jurisdictions have the authority to regulate outdoor tobacco advertising and some have banned it. Tobacco companies can advertise their products at point of sale, through sponsored events and branded schools, on billboards, online, and through extensive advertising of affiliated companies with the same names as tobacco brands.

Warning labels: Warning labels are text-only, employ small six point type, feature the same background color as the rest of the pack, and do not spell out specific health harms of smoking. They cover 30 percent of the pack, in Chinese on the front and English on the back. Tobacco companies are allowed to design their own labels as long as they meet the minimum requirements set by the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration.

Tobacco taxes and price: Taxes remain low, well below the 65 percent to 80 percent of retail price range recommended by the World Bank. Cigarettes have a wide price range, with the cheapest costing approximately US$0.30/pack and the most expensive costing as much as $80/pack. The most popular brands of cigarettes have become more affordable in China over time as personal incomes have risen while prices have remained low.

Updated: February 2011