China estimated to have far more female smokers than previously thought

| January 16, 2013

The number of girls and young women who smoke may be higher than the authorities on mainland China recognize, according to a story by Alice Yan for the South China Morning Post quoting the findings of a Shanghai-based health research team.

According to a two-year study led by Ma Jin of the ShanghaiJiaoTongUniversity’s school of public health, up to 14 per cent of girls and young women on the mainland could be smokers, a much higher rate of smoking than was estimated in an earlier government study.

The China Tobacco Control Blueprint (2012-2015), issued by seven state ministries and the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration last year, put the number of mainland teenagers who smoke at 11.5 per cent. It said 3.6 per cent of female teenagers smoked, while 18.4 per cent of male teenagers smoked.

The two lots of results are not directly comparable, however, since the Blueprint figures refer to teenagers and the Shanghai University’s figures were based on a survey involving 11,104 students 12-20 years old (referred to as girls and boys), and their parents from five city districts of Shanghai.

The university study, which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Shanghai’s municipal government, and published in The Lancet medical journal last month, reported also that the number of adult women smokers on the mainland reported by the authorities could be a third lower than the actual figure.

Ma said his survey gave a more accurate picture of mainland tobacco-use than did a study led by State University of New York Professor, Gary Giovino, published in the same journal in August.

According to Giovino’s study, which analyzed tobacco use in 16 countries, more than half of men on mainland China over the age of 15 smoked. The figure was only two per cent for women. The study estimated the mainland had 301 million smokers. The results from his study matched estimates of the mainland authorities.

Ma said Giovino’s study used a self-report method which was regarded as reliable in some Western countries, but which “severely” underestimated the true number of smokers on the mainland.

“Young students, especially girls, and adult women tend to cover up their identities as smokers because of pressure from society, which generally regards smoking as bad behaviour for students and women,” he said.

Category: Breaking News

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