All advertising of tobacco, including promotions and sponsorship, will be banned across China by January 2011, according to a leading non-governmental organization.
Xu Guihua, deputy leader and secretary-general of Chinese Association on Tobacco Control announced the deadline in a public report on China's implementation of Framework Convention on Tobacco Control of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province.
However, an official with the Advertising Supervision Department of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce said on Tuesday that he could not comment on the time schedule.
The deadline was confirmed by Jiang Yuan, deputy head of the State Tobacco Control Office affiliated to the Ministry of Health, who said the timing should coincide with China's commitment as a signatory to Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
The WHO convention requires signatories to ban tobacco advertising and related promotions and sponsorships within five years of its ratification by signatory states.
China joined the international fight against tobacco consumption when it signed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control of the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2003. It ratified the convention in October 2005 and the convention came into effect on January 9. 2006, although implementation of the convention is not obligatory.
Xu blamed the lack of a national law prohibiting smoking in all public places for China's laggardness behind other countries in tobacco control.
China is the world's largest tobacco producing and consuming country, accounting for more than a third of the global total on both counts. It has more than 350 million smokers and almost one million die from smoking-related diseases each year, according to the Ministry of Health.
About 540 million Chinese suffer the effects of secondhand smoke and more than 100,000 die annually from diseases caused by passive smoking, said the ministry's 2007 Report on China's Smoking Control.
At present, smoking is banned in cinemas, libraries, song and dance halls, and conference rooms in the country. Only 28 cities on the Chinese mainland are free of advertising on tobacco.
As the host of the 2008 summer Olympic Games, Beijing has been waging a campaign for a smoke-free Games.
In April, municipal government departments of Beijing, including the bureaus of health and commerce, issued a circular asking all catering businesses to implement tobacco controls.
By June next year, smoking bans should be enforced in all hotels that provide services for athletes and other workers of the Olympic Games, all competition venues and restaurants in the Olympic Village.
Large and medium-sized restaurants in the city should also make at least 75 percent of their floor space non-smoking.
(Xinhua News Agency August 29, 2007)