Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates was in China yesterday to raise awareness about the dangers of secondhand smoke in the country with the world’s largest smoking population.
Gates is partnering with Robin Li (李彥宏), chief executive of Baidu Inc, which operates China’s most popular search engine, in a foundation using traditional and online media to pinpoint the dangers of inhaling smoke from the cigarettes of others.
“Both [media] let people know about the damage of forced -smoking and give some education about how in a very polite way they can ask people not to put them in that situation,” Gates said at a news conference in Beijing.
According to government statistics, smoking is linked to the deaths of at least 1 million people in China every year, making it one of the greatest health threats the country faces. Nearly 30 percent of adults in China smoke — about 300 million people, a number roughly equal to the entire US population.
More than double that number are estimated to suffer exposure to the risks of secondhand smoke, which include increased asthma attacks, ear and respiratory infections and cancer, according to the Chinese Health Ministry.
The annual number of -smoking-related deaths could rise to 3 million by 2030 without greater efforts, Chinese Vice Health Minister Huang Jiefu (黃潔夫) said, warning that tobacco control efforts in China face a “serious challenge.”
“Our country has made progress in controlling smoking, but speaking overall, we still have a tough road ahead,” Huang said. “The effect on our country’s future could be great.”