Grim Reaper coming to Asia

As economic growth continues in Asia and per capita income rises, traditional threats to health like poor sanitation, malnutrition and lack of medical care are being beaten back. Unfortunately self-inflicted woes –smoking, alcohol, inactivity, poor eating habits– are a growing menace. There are 300 million smokers in China, the same as the whole US population. Many will die from smoking-related illnesses.

It’s a real shame from a human standpoint and it will also cost the region a fortune in foregone productivity.

I wonder whether we’ll see high tobacco taxes and outright bans on smoking. I bet some governments would outlaw tobacco if they could find a way to avoid an insurrection and if government officials could get over their own addictions. Having seen how quickly countries like Italy and France have tackled smoking, I’m optimistic for Asia, though it may take a while longer.

May 31, 2007

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