Smoking tobacco will claim the lives of 200 million people in China by the end of this century, the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has warned.
According to a report released by the WHO and UNDP on Friday, poverty-stricken areas in the country will suffer both health and economic losses if nothing is done to cut down smoking soon.
“If nothing is done to reduce these numbers and introduce more progressive policies, the consequences could be devastating not just for the health of people across the country, but also for China’s economy as a whole,” said Bernhard Schwartlander, China’s WHO Representative ( via Shanghaiist).
The report, titled “The Bill China Cannot Afford,” states that China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of tobacco with an estimated 315 million smokers and 44% of the world’s cigarettes are smoked in the country.
In 2014, the economic cost of smoking tobacco in China was 350 billion yuan ($57 billion), a whopping 1,000% jump from 2000.
Schwartlander suggested that more smoke-free laws need to be implemented across the country, including in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.
Cigarettes remain cheap and have become more affordable over the years, according to the report.
A 50% increase in the retail price of cigarettes could prevent 20 million premature deaths over the next 50 years as the government revenue grows by nearly 442 billion yuan ($55 billion) each year.
Bert Hofman, World Bank Country Director for China, Mongolia and Korea, said in a statement:
“Raising tobacco taxes is one of the most cost-effective measures to reduce tobacco consumption, while also generating substantial revenue for health and other essential programs – investments that ultimately benefit the entire population,”