China's state media said that basketball star Yao Ming has joined up with the wife of China's vice president to lead an anti-tobacco campaign in the country with the world's largest number of smokers.
The NBA All-Star Houston Rockets center was named as an ambassador to the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control and is expected to appear in public service announcements urging people not to smoke, Xinhua news agency said.
Also named was pop singer Peng Liyuan, the wife of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, the report said.
About 350 million Chinese, or nearly 27 percent of the country's population, smoke cigarettes, with the nation consuming up to one-third of the tobacco products sold annually worldwide, said the report, citing the association.
Up to one million Chinese die every year from lung cancer or cardiovascular diseases directly linked to tobacco consumption, it said.
In 2006, Yao, the most successful Chinese player in the NBA, joined a Wild Aid campaign against the eating of shark fin's soup, a popular Chinese delicacy that has left the fish at risk of extinction.
Peng has also served as a spokeswoman for a public awareness campaign against the stigmatization of HIV/AIDS sufferers.