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May 28, 2010

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Young women turning to smoke

SHANGHAI'S smoking control achievements have been overshadowed by an "alarming" rise in the number of puffing young women in the past few years.

City experts made this observation yesterday when commenting on a new survey released ahead of World No Tobacco Day on Monday.

Smoking in places like public transport vehicles, airport waiting rooms and stores has been banned since legislation was acted upon in March.

However, the deadly habit is still a serious problem in restaurants, Internet bars, dance halls and game parlors.

It was hard to lure women and minors away from tobacco, officials said yesterday.

The survey reported that the city rate of smoking among young women more than trebled in the past eight years, up from less than 2 percent in 2002 to last year's 7.2 percent.

That's because of society's increased tolerance toward women smoking, more elegant cigarette packaging, milder tobacco and product-placement ads in movies and on TV, according to Fudan University's public health college, the survey conductor.

The college canvassed 2,000 residents in Xuhui District in 2002 and 2009 to study the prevalence of smoking and attitudes toward tobacco and control measures.

"Though male smokers remained at a stable level of 48 to 50 percent, smokers among women between 20 and 39 rose quickly," said Fu Hua from the college. "It is a rather alarming figure."

All smokers risk lung and other cancers and cardiovascular disease.

However, women face a higher danger of breast and cervical cancer and earlier menopause. They also face the prospect of premature and low-birth-weight babies if they smoke.

Most residents support smoking controls, according to the survey.

More than 90 percent of women and 86 percent of men support complete bans on smoking in public areas.

Most support an overall ban on cigarette advertising and think doctors should help patients quit smoking.

More than 90 percent of women and 83 percent of men support tobacco-package warnings and 60 percent-plus think cigarette prices should be raised as a deterrent.

City health authorities said this year's initiatives included public education and encouraging doctors to quit.

The Ministry of Health will ban smoking in all domestic hospitals in 2011.

Dr Shen Weifeng, from Ruijin Hospital, told a meeting on cardiology yesterday that 75 percent of his patients aged under 60 with cardiovascular diseases were smokers.

A World Health Organization exhibit with the theme "Tobacco: The burden, the solution" is running at the United Nations Pavilion at the Expo site until June 10.


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