Cigarette smoking is so widespread in China, that unless Chinese men are encouraged to give up smoking, millions will die in the coming years.
A team from the University of Hong Kong and Oxford University investigated every mortality in 1998, when one-third of all the deaths among middle-aged men was attributed to smoking.
The research, published in the British Medical Journal, shows that if Chinese men continue their habit, 100 million are likely to die because of their smoking. Half of those will die between the ages of 35 and 65.
China is thought to be the world's largest producer of cigarettes, with one-third of all the world's cigarettes smoked there.
The team of scientists based their study on the city of Hong Kong, because it develops ahead of the rest of China and is an ideal place to predict how changes will affect the rest of the country.
Smoking in the territory peaked in the 1970s, but - in common with elsewhere in the developed world - death rates peaked 20 years later.
Researcher Sir Richard Peto, from Imperial Cancer Research Fund, said: "Unless there is widespread cessation by adults who already smoke, we predict a large increase in deaths attributable to tobacco in China over the next few decades.
"Two thirds of all the young men in China become smokers. Half the smokers who persist will eventually be killed by their habit."
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