China is the epicenter of the global tobacco epidemic. China grows more tobacco, produces more cigarettes, makes more profits from tobacco and has more smokers than any other nation in the world. Approximately one million smokers in China die annually from diseases caused by smoking, and this estimate is expected to reach over two million by 2020. China cities have a unique opportunity and role to play in leading the tobacco control charge from the “bottom up”. The Emory Global Health Institute—China Tobacco Control Partnership supported 17 cities to establish tobacco control programs aimed at changing social norms for tobacco use. Program assessments showed the Tobacco Free Cities grantees’ progress in establishing tobacco control policies and raising public awareness through policies, programs and education activities have varied from modest to substantial. Lessons learned included the need for training and tailored technical support to build staff capacity and the importance of government and organizational support for tobacco control. Tobacco control, particularly in China, is complex, but the potential for significant public health impact is unparalleled. Cities have a critical role to play in changing social norms of tobacco use, and may be the driving force for social norm change related to tobacco use in China.
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