China is still studying whether to raise prices and taxes for tobacco products, a senior Chinese official has said.
The effects of price hikes still need to be tested because both prices and taxes of the country's tobacco products are high, Miao Wei, minister of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), said on Sunday in an interview.
The statement came as doubts have arisen over the results of tobacco control during the ongoing annual sessions of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the country's top political advisory body.
Many delegations attending the two sessions have suggested hiking tobacco prices and taxes to control smoking.
Miao said the MIIT is also working on creating rules on health warning labels on tobacco packaging, which have been criticized as too small in size and lacking pictures and specific warnings.
But Miao didn't give a timetable when the rules will come out. China signed the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2003 and let the MIIT head the tobacco control efforts in line with the convention. But implementation is slow largely due to the interference of the tobacco industry, health experts said.
The nation has around 350 million smokers -- the highest number of any country in the world. Second-hand smoke in China impacts on an estimated 740 million people, including 180 million children and teenagers.
The Chinese government last March included smoking bans in public places in its 12th Five-year Plan (2011-2015). Some Chinese cities have also been passing legislation to control second-hand smoke.