A new study published in The Lancet reveals that two-thirds of men in the world's second largest economy start to smoke at a young age, and of these half will die as a result of the habit. In total, one in three young men in China is expected to die because of smoking.
And if uptake continues at its current rate, the study estimates smoking deaths in China will reach two million a year by 2030. In 2010, there were one million deaths because of the habit, mostly among males.
Zhengming Chen, one of the researchers involved in the study, said:
About two-thirds of young Chinese men become cigarette smokers, and most start before they are 20. Unless they stop, about half of them will eventually be killed by their habit.
The Oxford University researchers came to the conclusion by carrying out two large, nationally representative studies that looked at the smoking rates and health consequences of smoking among Chinese people. The first involved a quarter of a million men, while the second study looks at half a million men and women and is ongoing.
As well as revealing a worryingly high smoking rate among men, it also showed smoking among Chinese women is low and falling - but that uptake is much higher in urban areas than rural areas.
The findings highlight a stark contrast to developed nations, where smoking levels have been reduced substantially in recent years. In the UK, for example, the number of people smoking fell to 19 per cent in 2013 – the lowest level in 80 years.