China's Smoking Cessation Clinics Are a Flop

By Victoria Kim 05/30/13

Smoking cessation programs fail to take off in the nation where 300 million people smoke.

China's smokers exceed the entire US
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China is the top consumer of cigarettes in the world (burning through 50,000 cigarettes a second). But subsidized smoking cessation clinics are reportedly failing as the nation's staggering number of smokers seem largely unwilling to quit. In a country with 300 million smokers (more than the entire US population), 600,000 people develop lung cancer every year, accounting for one-third of global cases. A few years ago, it seemed like the perfect recipe for a booming smoking cessation market."If all of these smokers began seeking professional help in their struggle to quit smoking, China could find itself with a burgeoning new market," said Xiao Dan, director of a smoking cessation clinic in a Beijing hospital, in 2011. The country's response to these treatment centers has reportedly been so unenthusiastic that many have been forced to shut down. Treatment costs about 2,000 yuan (around $320)—less than what a heavy smoker might spend on cigarettes each year. And in Beijing, where 29% of the city's 20 million residents are smokers, the cost of treatment will now be covered by public health insurance. But most Beijing hospitals have already closed their smoking cessation clinics due to low attendance. One clinic in a Chongqing hospital received only 10 patients last year, a drop from 100 patients in 2008 when the clinic first opened. And a doctor in Chongqing said that many of those who do manage to quit in treatment end up returning to the habit. A law issued by the government in 2011 banned smoking in enclosed public spaces, but its enforcement has been lacking since it doesn't stipulate any penalties for offenders. Previous anti-smoking efforts, including a nationwide ban on smoking in hospitals, were met with dissent.

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