'Loopholes' should be closed for tobacco ads

Updated: 2016-01-19 07:56

By Shan Juan(China Daily)

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China's anti-tobacco activists urged the country's top legislators to reconsider a draft of the nation's first-ever charity law, which they said would be used by the tobacco industry for advertising and branding.

The draft is expected to be passed after a third reading.

"It's the last chance to urge changes plugging the loopholes for tobacco promotion," said Xu Guihua, a senior consultant for the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control, at a media briefing on Monday.

Under the draft, charity donors enjoy perks such as tax rebates, government awards, media promotion, naming rights and event sponsorships.

It also applies to the tobacco industry, if "any made a donation", Xu said.

She suggested a total ban on donations from the tobacco industry, as "they donate to promote their products, which do no good but sicken and kill people".

Xu offered a compromise: allow tobacco companies to make donations, but deny them access to the special rewards available to other donors.

According to Angela Pratt, head of the Tobacco Free Initiative at the World Health Organization's China office, "All forms of tobacco advertising, in all settings, should be banned."

She said that China has a legal obligation to implement the policies set forth in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which the country ratified in 2006.

The global tobacco-control treaty requires a total ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship.

However, in reality, primary and middle schools named after cigarette brands - the outgrowth of donations and sponsorships - are not rare, according to Wu Yiqun, deputy director of ThinkTank, an NGO committed to tobacco control in Beijing.

In Shanghai, the Shanghai Tobacco Group Co made a donation in late December of 10 million yuan ($1.52 million) to the Shanghai Charity Foundation to support university and middle school students struggling with financial hardships.

The event was widely reported in the local press, "which, in fact, helped promote the tobacco company", Wu said.

She warned of more similar events coming if the draft is approved.