China failing to stamp out smoking

Updated: 2013-12-04 01:10

By Shan Juan (China Daily)

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China has been doing a poor job of curbing smoking and protecting its people from the "silent killer", according to a latest report by an outspoken civil society committed to tobacco and smoking control.

The annual report — Tobacco Control in China from A Civil Society Perspective 2013 — was compiled by the organization ThinkTank and found that the production turnover of cigarettes on the mainland had increased by nearly 50 percent over the past decade.

The Chinese government signed the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control 10 years ago, vowing to curb tobacco use, said Wu Yiqun, deputy director of ThinkTank.

"China's been controlling tobacco and smoking for 10 years. However, the number of smokers and those exposed to secondhand smoke have not dwindled at all," she said.

Statistics from the National Health and Family Planning Commission show China has 300 million smokers. Another 740 million are exposed to secondhand smoke, mostly in public places.

The smoking rate among men is 52.96 percent, and more than 28 percent of people older than 15 light up.

Notably, 1.4 million Chinese die from smoking-related diseases every year on the mainland, accounting for one-third of the world's total.

China's inability to protect its people from the smoking epidemic has seriously tarnished the country's image abroad, said Xu Guihua, deputy director of the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control.

According to a WHO tobacco control assessment report, China ranked in the bottom 10 percent of all FCTC signatory countries and regions in terms of smoking bans at public places and workplaces.

The country did even worse in efforts to ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, Xu said.

Tobacco companies have moved online to get around bans on tobacco product advertising in conventional media like print and broadcasting, Wu Yiqun said.

She cited a website called "Yanyue", where online users can participate in a jigsaw puzzle contest.

When the picture is completed, the logo of a tobacco brand appears, she said, adding that winners receive free packs of cigarettes.

Yang Jie, deputy director of the Tobacco Control Office of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said such practices are essentially tobacco advertising.

"But regulation over online tobacco advertising remains undefined," he said. He urged the lawmakers to recognize the new trend online and close loopholes in current laws and regulations.

An international survey of six countries including China, Russia, India and Brazil, which has the highest smoking rate in the world, found that 86 percent of Chinese children polled could recognize at least one cigarette brand.

Wang Ke'an called for revisions to the law to better facilitate China's implementation of the FCTC. Urgent tasks for more effective tobacco control include the introduction of a nationwide smoking ban at all indoor public places.

A number of Chinese provinces and cities have enacted laws and regulations banning smoking at public places but enforcement remains lax, he said.