Is it more harmful to smoke one cigarette a day living in a place with clean air, or to not smoke but live in a city like Beijing?
Is it more harmful to smoke one cigarette a day living in a place with clean air, or to not smoke but live in a city like Beijing?. Are You misses or mister own this kind of question?, If do then plz read the good tips right after below:
Air pollution in Beijing is equivalent to 4 cigarettes per day, not 1/6 cigarette as previously thought! (For the erroneous 1/6 value, see for example the 2013 answer.) On a bad day in Beijing, breathing the air is equivalent in increased death rate to smoking 1.5 cigarettes every hour, or almost two packs of cigarettes per day. That’s for every man woman and child. It is a critical threat. Air pollution accounts for 17% of the deaths in China, and about 25% of the deaths in Beijing.
For the details, see the article written by me and Elizabeth Muller:. For our peer-reviewed paper on deaths in China see the publication by Robert Rohde and me: .
Why do we disagree with the famous (and unfortunately reassuring) value of 1/6 cigarette? This was a number estimated by the scientist Arden Pope (and blogged by Richard Saint Cyr). It was based on a measurement of the amount of PM2.5 breathed in by a cigarette smoker. The discrepancy with our published number was so large that we discussed this issue at length with Saint Cyr and Pope. We now understand the origin of the disagreement, and Pope agrees with our values. Average Beijing is 4 cigarettes per day, and bad Beijing is about 2 packs equivalent.
As I said, Arden Pope arrived at his original number by using measurements of the amount of PM2.5 (the worst pollutant from coal, but not from cigarettes; it stands for Particulate Matter 2.5 microns and less in size) from cigarettes. It turns out that this number is so high that smoking 1/6 of a cigarette delivers as much PM2.5 as an average day in Beijing. But …
What Pope and we have now recognized is that for some reason, the PM2.5 in cigarettes is not as dangerous as the PM2.5 from coal. That might be because of the content: primarily carbon in cigarettes, but sulfur and other harmful pollutants in coal smoke.
The mortality of cigarettes does not come from its relatively intense but benign cigarette PM2.5, but from other chemicals (complex hydrocarbons called tars and nicotine) it puts into the lungs and blood, with death from both heart disease and lung cancer.
This is very important, so I repeat it in bold:
The average air pollution in Beijing is equivalent in health effects of every man woman and child smoking 4 cigarettes per day. On a bad pollution day, it is equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes per day.
The death from air pollution in China is huge, 4,400 every day (for the whole country), 1.6 million excess deaths per year. On an average day in Beijing, air pollution kills approximately 62 people. That’s 23,000 per year. The misleading result of 1/6 cigarette equivalence per day gives a false sense of comfort.
Elizabeth and I noted on a recent trip to Beijing that we were the only ones on Tiananmen Square wearing masks. When we asked a local resident, he said, “It’s good that you wear a mask. You are from the United States. I live in Beijing, and I am used to it.” I fear he was taking false comfort in the equivalent value of 1/6 cigarette, widely believed in China. Since PM2.5 didn’t irritate his lungs (it doesn’t) he felt safe.
Incidentally, I’ve noted that almost every time I look, the pollution is worse in Delhi than it is in Beijing. You can see hourly updates on our website:.
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