Letter: Smokers in China rescue UK billion

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The Independent Online
Sir: For many years, British dictionaries and reference books resolutely defined an English billion as a million million, preserving it from encroachment by the cheap upstart American billion of a thousand million. I sought in vain for an actual example and feared that it was extinct - until I saw today's article by Teresa Poole (front page, 15 August).

She reports that China's 300 million cigarette smokers consumed 1.6 billion between them last year. Presumably she meant 14.6 per day rather than one every other month. So the good old- fashioned English billion is alive and well after all, but in China, where the sheer size of the country gives it a better chance of avoiding extinction.

Yours faithfully,


Kew, Surrey