A remarkably successful 20-year program of tobacco control in Hong Kong can serve as a best-practices example for China and other nations, says Jeffrey Koplan in an article published online today in The Lancet. Koplan is vice president for global health at Emory and director of the Emory Global Health Institute.
Hong Kongâ€™s successful tobacco control program began with a 1982 health ordinance launching a multi-step approach including legislative amendments (regulation of indoor smoking, pack warnings, ban on tobacco advertising), a steeply increased tobacco tax, school-based education, mass-media campaigns, community events, and leadership from the medical community.
Smoking prevalence in Hong Kong fell from 23.3 percent in 1982 to 11.8 percent in 2008 through the efforts of the Tobacco Control office of the Department of Health and NGOs such as the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health.
China leads the world in growing, producing, and consuming tobacco, with 35 percent of global tobacco share and 30 percent of the worldâ€™s smokers. Tobacco will be responsible for two million deaths annually in China by 2025.
Although tobacco control in China is in its early stages and remains a huge public health challenge, recently China has begun to tackle tobacco control through its Ministry of Health, the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, and projects funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Bloomberg Initiative. The Emory Global Health Institute received funding last year from the Gates Foundation to establish the Emory Global Health Institute-China Tobacco Partnership, and this partnership has opened tobacco control resource centers in several cities.
Hong Kong’s success can serve as a model.
â€œHong Kong has shown that an effective large-scale tobacco-control programme, promoted with adequate resources over many years, can shatter misconceptions about tobacco, change the social norm, and yield huge benefits, including a healthier population and economic savings,â€ says Koplan in The Lancet Comment.