OBJECTIVE: To assess the hazards at an early phase of the growing epidemic of deaths from tobacco in China. DESIGN: Smoking habits before 1980 (obtained from family or other informants) of 0.7 million adults who had died of neoplastic, respiratory, or vascular causes were compared with those of a reference group of 0.2 million who had died of other causes. SETTING: 24 urban and 74 rural areas of China. SUBJECTS: One million people who had died during 1986-8 and whose families could be interviewed. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Tobacco attributable mortality in middle or old age from neoplastic, respiratory, or vascular disease. RESULTS: Among male smokers aged 35-69 there was a 51% (SE 2) excess of neoplastic deaths, a 31% (2) excess of respiratory deaths, and a 15% (2) excess of vascular deaths. All three excesses were significant (P<0.0001). Among male smokers aged >/70 there was a 39% (3) excess of neoplastic deaths, a 54% (2) excess of respiratory deaths, and a 6% (2) excess of vascular deaths. Fewer women smoked, but those who did had tobacco attributable risks of lung cancer and respiratory disease about the same as men. For both sexes, the lung cancer rates at ages 35-69 were about three times as great in smokers as in non-smokers, but because the rates among non-smokers in different parts of China varied widely the absolute excesses of lung cancer in smokers also varied. Of all deaths attributed to tobacco, 45% were due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 15% to lung cancer; oesophageal cancer, stomach cancer, liver cancer, tuberculosis, stroke, and ischaemic heart disease each caused 5-8%. Tobacco caused about 0.6 million Chinese deaths in 1990 (0.5 million men). This will rise to 0.8 million in 2000 (0.4 million at ages 35-69) or to more if the tobacco attributed fractions increase. CONCLUSIONS: At current age specific death rates in smokers and non-smokers one in four smokers would be killed by tobacco, but as the epidemic grows this proportion will roughly double. If current smoking uptake rates persist in China (where about two thirds of men but few women become smokers) tobacco will kill about 100 million of the 0.3 billion males now aged 0-29, with half these deaths in middle age and half in old age.

Type

Journal article

Journal

BMJ

Publication Date

21/11/1998

Volume

317

Pages

1411 - 1422

Keywords

Adult, Age of Onset, Aged, Cardiovascular Diseases, Cause of Death, China, Female, Humans, Lung Neoplasms, Male, Middle Aged, Prevalence, Respiration Disorders, Retrospective Studies, Risk Assessment, Risk Factors, Sex Distribution, Smoking