By César Chelala | Saturday, March 02, 2013 source: The Globalist |
China now has approximately 360 million smokers — a number greater than the entire U.S. population. They consume 37% of the world's cigarettes and, according to the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, smoking will cause 3.2 million deaths annually in China by 2030. César Chelala urges the Chinese government to adopt far more a comprehensive attack on tobacco use.
The struggle against tobacco is not being won, it is being relocated.
When Christopher Columbus explored the New World in 1492, he found Native Americans smoking a native plant, tobacco, which they did both for medicinal and ceremonial purposes.
Columbus was also the first to introduce tobacco in Europe — and can thus be seen as the father of the global tobacco trade. Without him, the international tobacco companies would not have the lucrative business they have had for decades and still have today.
From 1617 to 1793, tobacco was the most widely used and valuable staple export from the English American mainland colonies and the United States.
Columbus would have never imagined that tobacco would become one of the main threats to health not just today, but already shortly after its introduction in Europe and in several Latin American and Asian countries. It was thus a precursor of sorts to what the 19th-century opium scourge did, particularly to China.
Tobacco, one of the most addictive substances in the world, was introduced to China via Japan or the Philippines in the 1600s. In 1643, Fang Yizhi, a Chinese scholar, was one of the first to warn about the dangers of tobacco.
He wrote that smoking tobacco for too long would "blacken the lungs" and lead to death. Chongzhen, the emperor at the time, outlawed growing tobacco and smoking its leaves.
Why then are the Chinese today the world champions of smoking, especially Chinese men? The answer is rooted in a very bad case of Western-imposed governance.
Chalk it down to the Treaties of Tianjin (Tientsin), concluded in 1858. That agreement, made among the second French Empire, the United Kingdom, the Russian Empire and the United States, ended the first part of the Second Opium War (1856-1860). The treaty was ratified by the Tongzhi Emperor in the Convention of Peking in 1860, after the war ended.