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Smoking-attributable deaths and potential years of life lost from a large, representative study in China
  1. Jingmei Jiang1,
  2. Boqi Liu2,
  3. Freddy Sitas3,
  4. Junyao Li2,
  5. Xianjia Zeng1,
  6. Wei Han1,
  7. Xiaonong Zou2,
  8. Yanping Wu2,
  9. Ping Zhao2
  1. 1Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Beijing, China
  2. 2The Cancer Institute/Hospital, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Beijing, China
  3. 3Cancer Epidemiology Research Unit, The Cancer Council NSW, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Boqi Liu, National Cancer Institute, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, 17 Pan Jia Yuan Nan Li, Beijing (100021), China; wangjbo{at}


Objectives To provide a more accurate estimate of early smoking-attributable mortality and potential years of life lost using data from a representative study of 103 study areas in China.

Methods Two datasets were employed as follows. Firstly, retrospective national mortality survey data, which included a population of 67 million in 103 study areas, and about 1 million adults who died in 1986–1988; secondly, nationally representative case-control comparative data was extracted from the survey data to measure the effect of smoking on age trends in smoking-attributable mortality. Potential years of life lost, and sex differences in life expectancy in smokers and non-smokers in the total population aged 35 and over were also estimated.

Results Tobacco caused 11.2% (16.0% of men and 3.7% of women) of total deaths in 1987, and more than two-thirds of these excess deaths occurred between the ages of 50 and 74 years, but only less than 5% excess deaths occurred at ages under 50. Although life expectancies varied with region or sex differences, the years of life lost attributable to smoking was almost the same. Smokers at age 35 lost about 3 years of life expectancy in comparison with never smokers. The study also confirmed that more than 50% of the sex difference in life expectancy was accounted for by smoking.

Conclusion Fully understanding the consequences of smoking in relation to mortality can clarify its effects on the health and longevity of the entire population.

  • Environmental tobacco smoke

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  • Funding The project was funded by Cancer Research UK, the UK Medical Research Council, the US National Institutes of Health, the Chinese Ministry of Health and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.

  • Competing interests The authors have no affiliation with any organisation with a direct or indirect financial interest in the subject matter discussed in the manuscript.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.