Nation faces rising health crisis as 1.2m die from smoking-related illnesses each year The WHO is pressing the mainland to raise taxes on tobacco to reduce consumption in a country with 350 million smokers - more than a third of the world's cigarette addicts. About 1.2 million mainland residents die from tobacco-related illnesses each year, a quarter of the global toll. Despite efforts to convince people not to smoke, more than two-thirds of adult men have picked up the habit. Last year, the mainland was one of 118 nations to sign the Framework Convention of Tobacco Control, the World Health Organisation's first international public health treaty, but it will take up to three years before it is ratified into national law and the effects are felt. Many challenges have to be overcome to convince people to kick the habit. As the world's largest consumer and producer of tobacco, the mainland's economy has a vested interest. Yunnan province is the mainland's largest supplier of tobacco and about 70 per cent of revenue is provided by the cash crop. 'Tobacco taxation is one of the most effective measures for reducing tobacco use without loss of revenue,' said Henk Bekedam, the WHO representative to the nation. Higher taxes will deter some smokers and the higher rates paid by the remaining smokers will make up for the lost income. The measure is also cited as having the added benefit of helping people who can least afford to smoke to stop. More than a third of the country's smokers live in poverty-stricken rural areas. Smokers, however, are often willing to pursue their habit at the expense of basic necessities. A WHO survey of low-income households in the southwest showed that people spent more than 11 per cent of their budget on cigarettes. Some say they do have a cut-off point. 'I can't afford cigarettes if they cost more than 10 yuan a packet,' said Zou Fengyi , a 42-year-old migrant worker who has smoked for more than 20 years. WHO spokesman Roy Wadia sees the taxation as one part of a wider campaign, 'encouraging the government to demand harder-hitting, more graphic anti-smoking ads, placing bigger warnings on packets and banning smoking in public places'. The mainland held a series of anti-smoking campaigns yesterday to mark World No Tobacco Day. All shopping malls and supermarkets across Shenyang city in Liaoning banned cigarette sales for a day, as did Beijing airport. Xinhua reports that nearly 60,000 Chinese tobacco addicts signed up for the international 'Quit and Win' stop smoking competition, which offers smokers the chance to win a 10,000-yuan national prize as well as a cheque for US$10,000 from the WHO. Though some still call for more comprehensive measures, 'every year you see more and more anti-smoking activities on this day and nothing the rest of the year', said Wang Lin , an accountant at an overseas company. 'But when you go to a restaurant and ask people at the next table to stop smoking, they won't listen to you'.