In the study published in The Lancet medical journal on Friday, researchers warned of a “growing epidemic of premature death” in the world’s most populous nation.
The research showed that one in three young Chinese men will be killed by tobacco.
It was conducted by researchers from Oxford University, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The annual number of deaths in China that is caused by tobacco will rise from about one million in 2010 to two million in 2030 and three million in 2050, unless there is widespread cessation,” the study noted.
The death rate for men was not the same for women though, as there were fewer female smokers.
“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,” said the article’s co-author, Zhengming Chen, from Oxford University.
China is the largest consumer of cigarettes in the world, consuming over a third of the world’s cigarettes, and has a sixth of the global smoking death toll.
In 2010, some 840,000 men and 130,000 women died because of smoking in China, which has a population of about 1.4 billion.
“With effective measures to accelerate cessation, the growing epidemic of premature death from tobacco can be halted and then reversed, as in other countries,” the study added.
The research also highlights that “widespread smoking cessation offers China one of the most effective, and cost-effective, strategies to avoid disability and premature death over the next few decades.”
The research relied on data drawn from two nationwide studies involving some 730,000 Chinese people in total.
The first study ran over several years in the 1990s, while the second, which started in 2006, is still ongoing.