General Statistics

Smoking Statistics in the U.S. and China

The U.S. Surgeon General released a landmark report on smoking and health in 1964, concluding that smoking caused lung cancer.  At that time, smoking was at its peak in the U.S. – more than half of the men and nearly one-third of the women were reported to be smokers.
The U.S. Surgeon General released another report [1] in June this year, titled “The Health Consequences of Smoking – 50 Years of Progress.”
A time plot based on the recent report [2] shows the trend of one statistic – adult per capita cigarette consumption – for the period of 1900-2012.  It reveals the rise of smoking in the U.S. in the first half of the 20th century, coinciding with the Great Depression and two world wars when the government supplied cigarettes as rations to soldiers.  There has been a steady decline in the last 50 years.
When the 1964 report was released, an American adult was smoking more than 4,200 cigarettes a year on the average.   Today it is less than 1,300.  About 18% of Americans smoked in 2012, down from the overall 42% in 1964.  The difference between male and female smokers is relatively small – men at 20% and women at 16%.  According to a 2013 Gallup poll [3], 95% of the American public believed that smoking is very harmful or somewhat harmful, compared to only 44% of Americans who believed that smoking causes cancer in 1958.
After the release of the 1964 report, Congress required all cigarette packages to carry a health warning label in 1965.  Cigarette advertising on television and radio were banned effective in 1970.  Taxes on cigarettes were raised; treatments for nicotine introduced; non-smoker rights movement started.  Together laws, regulations, public education, treatment, taxation, and community efforts have all played an important role in transforming a national habit to a recognized threat to human health and quality of life in the last 50 years.  This was beyond my wildest imagination that it could happen in my lifetime.
Statistics has been at the center of this enormous social change from the beginning of the smoking and health issue.
As early as 1928, statistical data began to appear and showed a higher proportion of heavy smokers among lung cancer patients [4].  A 10-member advisory committee prepared the 1964 report, spending over a year to review more than 7,000 scientific articles along with 150 consultants.  By design, the committee included five non-smokers and five smokers, representing disciplines in medicine, surgery, pharmacology, and STATISTICS.  The lone statistician was William G. Cochran, a smoker who was also a founding member of the Statistics Department at Harvard University and author of two classic books, “Experimental Design” and “Sampling Techniques.”
During the past 50 years, an estimated 21 million Americans have died because of smoking, including nearly 2.5 million non-smokers due to second-hand smoke and 100,000 babies due to parental smoking.
There are still about 42 million adult smokers and 3.5 million middle and high school students smoking cigarettes in the U.S. today.  Interestingly, Asian Americans have the lowest rate of smokers at 11% among all racial groups in the U.S.
China agreed to join the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2003.  It reported [5] 356 million smokers in 2010, about 28% of its total population and practically unchanged from its 2002 level.  The gender difference was remarkable – 340 million male smokers (96%) and 16 million female smokers (4%).  About 1.2 million people die from smoking in China each year.  Among the remaining over 900 million non-smokers in China, about 738 million, including 182 million children, are exposed to second-hand smoke.   Only 20% of Chinese adults reportedly believed that smoking causes cancer in 2010 [6].
More detailed historical records on smoking in China are either inconsistent or fragmented.  One source outside of China [7] suggested that there were 281 million Chinese smokers in 2012 and an increase of 100 million smokers from 1980.
China has been stumbling in its efforts to control smoking.
According to a 2013 survey by the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control [8], 50.2% of the male school teachers were smokers; male doctors 47.3%; and male public servants 61%.  Given these high rates for their important roles, there is concern and skepticism on how effective tobacco control can be implemented or enforced.
Coupled with the institutional issues of its tobacco industry, China has been criticized for its ineffective tobacco control ineffective. While the size of some American Tobacco companies may be larger, they are not state-owned. China is the world’s largest tobacco producer and consumer.  Its state-owned monopoly, China National Tobacco Corporation, is the largest company of this type in the world.
Nonetheless, the Chinese government has enacted a number of measures to restrict smoking in recent years.  The Ministry of Health took the lead in banning smoking in the medical and healthcare systems in 2009.  Smoking in public indoor spaces such as restaurants, hotels, and public transportation were banned beginning in 2011.
According to the Chinese Tobacco Control Program (2012-2015) [9,10], China will ban cigarette advertising, marketing and sponsorship, setting a goal of reducing the smoking rate from 28.1% in 2010 to 25%.
Smoking is a social issue common to both the U.S. and China.
Statistics facilitates understanding of the status and implications, as well as providing advice, assistance, and guidance for governance.  More statistics can certainly be cited about the ill effects of smoking in both nations.  At the end, it is the collective will and wisdom of each nation that will determine the ultimate course of actions.
[1] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2014). The Health Consequences of Smoking – 50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General.  Retrieved from
[2] Ferdman, Roberto. (2014). The young and poor are keeping big American tobacco alive.  The Washington Post.  Retrieved from
[3] Gallup Poll. Tobacco and Smoking. Retrieved from
[4] National Library of Medicine. Profiles in Science. The Reports of the Surgeon General.  Retrieved from
[5] The Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China. (2011, January 6) Population of tobacco remains high and not declining; smokers are still over 300 million.  Retrieved from
[6] (2011, May 2). New smoking ban effective in China. Retrieved from
[7] Qin, Amy. (2014, January 9). Smoking Prevalence Steady in China, but Numbers Rise. The New York Times. Retrieved from
[8] China News. (2013, December 31). Survey finds over 60% of male public servants smoke; half never quit.  Retrieved from
[9] The Chinese Ministry of Health. 2013 Report on Tobacco Control in China – Total Prohibition of Tobacco Advertising, Marketing and Sponsorship. Retrieved from
[10] China Women’s Federation News. Banning Tobacco Advertising Cannot be Just Paper Planning. Retrieved from
Big Data General Statistics Statistics 2.0

Crossing the Stream and Reaching the Sky

In the early stages of its economic reform, China chose to “cross a stream by feeling the rocks.”

Limited by expertise and conditions at that time when there was no statistical infrastructure in China to provide accurate and reliable measurements, the chosen path was the only option.

In fact, this path was traveled by many nations, including the U.S. At the beginning of the 20th century when the field of modern statistics had not taken shape, data were not believable or reliable even if they existed.   Well-known American writer and humorist Mark Twain once lamented about “lies, damned lies, and statistics,” pointing out the data quality problem of the time.  During the past hundred years, statistics deployed an international common language and reliable data, establishing a long history of success with broad areas of application in the U.S.  This stage of statistics may be generally called Statistics 1.0.

Feeling the rocks may help to across a stream, but it would be difficult to land on the moon, even more difficult to create smart cities and an affluent society.  If one could scientifically measure the depth of the stream and build roads and bridges, it may be unnecessary to make trials and errors.

The long-term development of society must exit this transitional stage and enter a more scientifically-based digital culture where high-quality data and credible, reliable statistics serve to continuously enhance the efficiency, equity and sustainability of national policies. At the same time, specialized knowledge must be converted responsibly to practical useful knowledge, serving the government, enterprises and the people.

Today, technologies associated with Big Data are advancing rapidly.  A new opportunity has arrived to usher in the Statistics 2.0 era.

Simply stated, Statistics 2.0 elevates the role and technical level of descriptive statistics, extends the theories and methods of mathematical statistics to non-randomly collected data, and expands statistical thinking to include facing the future.

One may observe that in a digital society, whether it is from crossing a stream or reaching the sky, or from governance of a nation to the daily life of the common people, what were once “unimaginable” are now “reality.”  Driverless cars, drone delivery of packages, and space travel are no longer imaginations in fictions.  Although their data that can be analyzed in a practical setting are still limited, they are within the realistic visions of Statistics 2.0.

In terms of social development, the U.S. and China are actively trying to improve people’s livelihood, enhance governance, and improve the environment. A harmonious and prosperous world cannot be achieved without vibrant and sustainable economies in both China and the U.S., and peaceful, mutually beneficial collaborations between the nations.

Statistics 2.0 can and should play an extremely important role in this evolution.

The WeChat platform Statistics 2.0 will not use low quality or duplicative information to clog already congested channels, but it values new thinking to share common interest in the study of Statistics 2.0, introducing state-of-the-art developments in the U.S. and China in a simple and timely manner, offering thoughts and discussions about classical issues, exploring innovative applications, and sharing the beauty of the science of data in theory and practice.

WeChat Platform: Statistics 2.0

Big Data Statistics 2.0

Smart Wuhan, Built on Big Data


The following is an abstract for a presentation given in the Committee of 100 Fourth Tien Changlin (田长霖) Symposium held in Wuhan, China, on June 20, 2013.

The presentation in simplified Chinese is available at 智慧武汉:善用大数据.

The urban population in China doubled between 1990 and 2012.  It is estimated that an additional 400 million people will move from the countryside to the cities in the next decade.  China has announced plans to become a well-off society, while maintaining harmony, during this time period.  This is an enormous challenge to China and its cities like Wuhan.

A well-off society necessarily includes a sound infrastructure and sustainable economic development with entrepreneurial spirits and drive for innovation.  It must constantly improve quality of life for its citizens with effective management of the environment and natural resources.  Most of all, it must change governance so that flexibility, high efficiency and responsiveness are the norms that its citizens would expect.

If data were letters and single words, statistics would be grammar that binds them together in an international language that quantifies what a well-off society is, measures performance, and communicates results.  Modern technology can now collect and deliver electronic information in great variety with massive volume at rapid speed during the Big Data era.  Combined with open policy, talented people, and partnership between the academia, government, and private sector, Wuhan can get smart with Big Data, as it has started with projects like “China Technology and Science City” and “Citizen’s Home.”  Although there are many areas yet to expand and improve, a smart Wuhan will lead the nation up another level toward a well-off society.

Link to presentation in simplified Chinese: 智慧武汉:善用大数据.