Page last updated at 00:40 GMT, Saturday, 4 October 2008 01:40 UK

China lung disease 'to kill 83m'

By Jill McGivering
BBC News

Men smoking in China (file image)
One in three cigarettes in the world is smoked in China

A US study has suggested that more than 80 million people in China will die in the next 25 years as a result of lung disease.

The research says the vast majority of those premature deaths are preventable.

The study focused on the devastating impact of smoking and the widespread practice of burning wood or coal at home for cooking and heating.

The Harvard School of Public Health research looked at a 30-year period, spanning the last five and the next 25.

Respiratory disease is already a leading cause of death in China, but this latest study suggests a startling rise.

In the 30-year period, it calculates, about 83 million Chinese people will die prematurely of lung disease.

Intervention plea

That includes lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, an even bigger killer.

Most of these early deaths are preventable, it says, caused by smoking and the common practice of burning wood and coal in home stoves.

Prof Majid Ezzati, the study's senior author, says dramatic intervention now by China's government could save many millions of lives.

"If China manages to control tobacco through taxation, through health education, through advertising bans, and if it manages to get clean fuel to the 70% of its population who need cleaner fuels, or ways of burning their current fuels more cleanly, they have a lot of health gains to make."

At the moment, one in three cigarettes lit in the world is smoked in China.

About half of Chinese men smoke, and there is concern the next trend will be an increase in smoking amongst women too.

That has not been factored into the study, and could boost the number of deaths still further.

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