Background: Systematic data regarding adolescent smoking are needed at the national level to support evidence-based tobacco control in China. The goal of this study was to estimate smoking prevalence among Chinese adolescents using published data.
Methods: Published studies were located electronically from the commonly used databases in Chinese and English, complemented by manual searching. Forty-five studies were selected of the 9771 retrieved from the databases. These studies targeted adolescents aged 12-17 or middle/high school students, were conducted during the 1981-2010, and had adequate data for meta-analysis. The 45 selected studies covered 52 sites in different parts of China. Smoking rates were estimated using the sample-weighted and random effect method.
Results: The estimated prevalence rate of lifetime smoking (ever smoked) varied within a narrow range (39.04%-46.03%) for males and progressively increased from 2.47% in 1981-1985 to 19.72% in 2001-2005 for females. The prevalence rate of current (30-day) smoking for males declined from 26.62% in 1981-1985 to 10.86% in 1996-2000 before increasing again. The prevalence of current smoking for females increased from 0.29% in 1981-1985 to 3.26% in 2006-2010.
Conclusions: The high levels of male smoking and the rapid increase in female smoking indicate growing burdens from tobacco-related diseases, underscoring the urgent need to strengthen adolescent tobacco control in China.