The average age of Chinese smokers beginning to take up smoking is younger than a decade ago, said a report released by China's Ministry of Health on Friday.
The ministry conducted surveys on Chinese smokers in 1984, 1996 and 2002 respectively. The surveys found that Chinese male smokers began to take up smoking at the age of 18 on average in 2002 , compared with the age of 22 in 1984.
The average age of Chinese new female smokers was 20 in 2002, five years younger than that in 1984, said the report.
In most regions of China, more than 63 percent of Chinese men smoke, according to the report. And the smoking rates in Yunnan, Fujian, Jiangxi, Hubei, Qinghai, Shanxi and Inner Mongolia were especially high.
However, the smoking rate for Chinese women was relatively low. In 75 percent of regions of China, the smoking rate for women was below 4.7 percent. In the other 25 percent of regions, the rate was between 4.7 percent and 17.3 percent.
Chinese women in northwest China and in the north China's port city of Tianjin liked smoking the most, said the report.
The report said the more educated the people, the lower smoking rate it was. The smoking rate for Chinese men who had received higher education was 54.8 percent, much lower than the rate for those who only entered primary schools, which was 71.2 percent.
The report also said that about half of China's non-smokers were passive smokers. About 82 percent of them suffered from secondhand smoking at home, 37 percent in working environment, and 67 percent in public places.
They were subjected to passive smoking for at least 15 consecutive minutes a week.
(Xinhua News Agency December 2, 2006)