Control tobacco, control disease

At the 4th Annual Chronic Disease Forum the Prevention and Management of Chronic Diseases and Health Policy Roundtable held in Xi’an May 24-25, the issue of tobacco consumption in China was a dominant feature in panel discussions with local and international experts.

According to WHO, almost 80% of the world's one billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries, and one of every three cigarettes consumed in the world is smoked in the Western Pacific Region, which includes China.

This year’s theme for World No Tobacco Day, held every year on May 31, is “Tobacco industry interference” and emphasizes understanding the tobacco industry’s practices and the importance of government action to limit their capabilities.

During his panel discussion on the global burden of disease, Professor Alan Lopez from the University of Queensland said, “If any government is serious about controlling non-communicable disease, then they must be serious about tobacco control.”

Professor Stephen MacMahon from The George Institute for Global Health, Dr. Michael O’Leary from the WHO, Dr. Michael Engelgau of the US CDC, and Ministry of Health representatives joined voices to call for more tobacco control to cut down on chronic illness due to tobacco in China.

“There is a lot consensus between our local public health experts and our international speakers regarding tobacco control in China,” said Professor Lijing Yan, Director of the China International Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and the Head of the Research and Development at The George Institute for Global Health, China.

“This annual forum and roundtable is an excellent platform to exchange experience, evidence, and opinions from all around the world and it is encouraging that we all agree on the key areas where China can improve health outcomes for millions of Chinese,” she adds.

After high blood pressure, tobacco use is the biggest risk factor for non-communicable diseases, which includes heart attack, stroke, diabetes, cancer and many other debilitating and life-threatening conditions.

Although the experts agree that tobacco is a serious problem, Professor Yan warns that the work is far from over.

“The George Institute will work together with other key players in the region such as the WHO and US and Chinese CDCs to help educate people on the risk of smoking to their health, in addition to other collaborations in the future on NCDs and their risk factors including salt reduction and obesity,” she said.