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“Not for all the tea in China . . .”
  1. Asian Consultancy on Tobacco Control
  2. Riftswood, 9th Milestone DD 229
  3. Lot 147, Clearwater Bay Road
  4. Kowloon, Hong Kong, China;
  5. jmackay{at}

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    Editor,—When Helmut Geist wrote the article on deforestation related to tobacco farming,1 comprehensive data on China had not been located. Since then, in 1999, the state-produced 1998 China statistical yearbookpublished agricultural statistics for the 20-year period from 1978 to 1997 on total sown areas of farm crops, with breakdown figures for tobacco (and the amount of this tobacco which is flue cured), grains, rice, soy, tubers, cotton, vegetables, and tea.

    This data are important, as China is the largest producer as well as the largest consumer of tobacco in the world. A third of all the cigarettes smoked in the world are smoked by over 300 million smokers in China.

    In 1997, 2.4 million hectares of tobacco were under cultivation in China out of a total sown area of 154 million. Tobacco growing areas increased from 0.8 million hectares in 1978 to 2.4 million hectares in 1997; of this, the amount flue cured increased from 0.6 million to 2.1 million hectares (tables 1-3).

    Since 1985, China has grown more tobacco than tea. So the commonly used phrase, “I wouldn’t do it for all the tea in China” should be replaced with “I wouldn’t do it for all the tobacco in China.”

    It is to be hoped that “smoke” will replace “do it”.


    Table 1

    China: total sown areas of farm crops (Source: “1998 China statistical yearbook”, pages 382, 400, 402)

    Table 2

    China: tobacco production by year (Source: “1998 China statistical yearbook”)

    Table 3

    Tobacco production by province (Source: “1998 China statistical yearbook”, page 402)