China's latest anti-smoking campaign could be the one that beats the habit

Forget plain-packaging: blackened lungs are more powerful

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With Tory backbenchers preparing to rebel against plans for plain packaging on cigarettes, with many saying it will either not affect the number of young people smoking or lead to the rise of cheap counterfeits, perhaps the UK should look over to the East for anti-smoking inspiration.

Smoking is still an ever present habit despite numerous global trends such as public smoking bans: even the President of the United States, Barack Obama, needs nicotine gum during important international ceremonies to lessen his urge to sneak a cheeky drag.

So perhaps video aired on Chinese television channel CCTV last week is the next stage of the anti-smoking drive: it shows a series of images of damaged lungs, highlighting the long-term damage smokers and passive smokers face from tobacco smoke.

One particularly frightening sight shows a pair of lungs with black spots dotted all over them, almost like they are covered in tiny chocolate chips, a grim reminder of the horrible effect of the habit. It certainly puts many of the health warning images that adorn cigarette packages in the UK to shame: the abnormal look of one's lungs is sure to be more effective than a picture of a sagging cigarette representing the danger of impotence.

Untitled-3.jpgSuch graphic footage is pertinent in China where, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 300 million people smoke, representing one-third of the world's total.

In 2009, China consumed nearly 2.3 trillion cigarettes, more than the other top- four tobacco-consuming countries combined (Indonesia, Japan, the Russian Federation and the United States of America).

The WHO states that roughly one million deaths every year in China are caused by tobacco, with around 100,000 people dying as a result of exposure to second-hand smoke each year.

Every day, China loses 3,000 people due to tobacco use.