China restricts smoking scenes in films, TV shows.
About 1 million people in China die every year due to heavy use of tobacco. Reuters

China’s heavy air pollution and tobacco smoking habits have already been linked to the decline in respiratory health of its citizens, and it’s only expected to get worse. Experts are now estimating that China will be the home to the most lung cancer patients in the world by 2025.

According to the Shanghai Daily, experts attending a forum last weekend in the capital city of Beijing, said there will be roughly one million people suffering from lung cancer across the country by 2025, becoming the deadliest cancers of all in China by then.

The United Nations public health bureau, the World Health Organization, said the surge in lung cancer cases has a lot to do with the country’s struggle to kick its smoking habit, but the effects of air pollution should not be marginalized either.

The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer reported last month that air pollution is considered to be a carcinogen, with effects comparable to known cancer-causing elements like asbestos and ultraviolet radiation.

In China, citizens are combatting the air pollution particulate known as PM2.5, which are able to travel deeply inside the respiratory tract. PM 2.5 particles come primarily from vehicle exhaust, construction, and burning fuels like coal. China’s breakneck economic growth and urban expansion over the past decade have come at a very heavy price -- hazardous air quality that endangers the health of its people.

But tobacco remains the greatest threat -- WHO said that smoking accounts for 80 percent of lung cancer cases reported in the country, where a staggering 350 million people light up. By comparison, the total number of smokers in the whole world is 1.1 billion.

With the incidence of lung cancer rising by 26.9 percent year-on-year in China, other environmental factors are also said to contribute to the increase. Aside from smoking and air pollution, work-related hazards, chronic lung disease and genetic susceptibility are all factors that are affecting citizens, Wang Changli, a member of the Chinese Society of Lung Cancer and doctor at the Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute, said.

While China will soon earn the unwanted title of having the most lung cancer patients on the planet, they currently allegedly have the youngest. Earlier this month, local state media confirmed that an 8-year old girl in eastern China was diagnosed with lung cancer as a result of rampant air pollution. The unidentified girl was diagnosed with the disease after inhaling an assortment of dangerous dust pollutants while living nearby a busy road.