Survey leaves anti-tobacco advocates angry

Updated: 2013-05-31 07:12

By Shan Juan (China Daily)

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Survey leaves anti-tobacco advocates angry

China ranked 13th among 14 developing countries in terms of anti-smoking efforts and measures, according to an analysis conducted by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and its counterpart in the United States.

China is only ahead of Russia on the list, which considers efforts to ban tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion, tobacco tax rates and retail prices, warning labels on cigarette packages and smoking bans in public places, according to professor Yang Gonghuan, former deputy director of China CDC.

She led the Chinese team in the analysis.

"If other developing countries can do well in tobacco control, why can't China?" she questioned.

Other countries involved include Thailand, Uruguay, Brazil, South Africa, India and Turkey.

Data used in the analysis are from the Global Adult Tobacco Survey produced in 2010 by the China CDC, the United States CDC and the World Health Organization, Yang said.

Despite the survey not ranking countries directly, further analysis could easily lead to China lagging far behind not only developed economies like Canada, Australia and the European Union, but also low- and middle-income countries on the implementation of tobacco control, said Xu Guihua, who heads the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control.

Thailand, Uruguay and Brazil ranked the top three with forceful anti-tobacco efforts, according to the analysis.

"China did particularly poorly in warnings on cigarette packs and tobacco taxation," Yang said.

Most of the 14 countries, including China, officially joined the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2005.

"China should think about why it made little progress on tobacco control while it could improve children's health and infectious disease control and prevention," she said.

Even bottom-ranked Russia introduced a series of tobacco control measures last year, like a total ban on smoking in public places.

Xu agreed and urged stronger political commitment to curb a smoking epidemic in the country, which has more than 300 million smokers.

Each year, at least 1 million Chinese die from smoking related diseases on the mainland, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

China relies heavily on the tobacco industry as a major tax contributor, which severely affects progress on curbing tobacco, Yang said.

Worse, the country's implementation of the tobacco framework and a coordination office was placed under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which oversees the State Tobacco Monopoly Bureau, or the China National Tobacco Corporation, Yang said.

China has a State monopoly over the tobacco industry.

"Such a mechanism can hardly help China's progress in tobacco control," she said.

(China Daily 05/31/2013 page5)