Bill Gates in China push against secondhand smoke

By the Associated Press | June 11, 2011 | 1:45 AM EDT

Microsoft founder Bill Gates reacts during a press conference to promote public health and a smoke free environment in Beijing, China, Saturday, June 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

BEIJING (AP) — Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates is visiting China to raise awareness of the dangers of secondhand smoke.

Gates appeared at a news conference in Beijing on Saturday alongside Chinese Internet executive Robin Li and Vice Health Minister Huang Jiefu to encourage nonsmokers to stand up for their right to a smoke-free environment.

According to government statistics, smoking is linked to the deaths of at least 1 million people in China every year, making it one of the greatest health threats the country faces. Nearly 30 percent of adults in China smoke — about 300 million people, a number roughly equal to the entire U.S. population.

The risks of secondhand smoke include increased asthma attacks, ear and respiratory infections, and cancer.