Tobacco control necessary

By Li Yang
0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, January 10, 2011
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Sunday marked the fifth anniversary of China's ratification of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The treaty requires a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and prohibits smoking in the workplace and public places. But China has failed to meet the goals it agreed to. China is the world's largest producer and consumer of tobacco. It is estimated that approximately one in every three cigarettes smoked globally is made and consumed in China.

Rule of law sets the binding framework for all campaigns to curb tobacco consumption in China. It is the government's obligation to provide public services to prevent tobacco hazards, said Ma Huaide, vice-president of China University of Political Science and Law.

Stronger tobacco control measures must be meted out, including a complete ban on promotion and sponsorship, smoking in public places and a tax policy to raise retail prices and make cigarettes less affordable to the young.

The country has seen a 40 percent increase in tobacco output during the past five years, according to Tobacco Control and China's Future, an evaluation report by Yang Gonghuan, vice-director of the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Hu Angang, director of the Research Center for Contemporary China at Tsinghua University.

Yang and Hu's report concludes that the administrative mechanism of the tobacco industry should be reformed and the government's role in comprehensive tobacco control should be clearly defined.

The responsibility of tobacco control should not be put in the hands of government agencies that also oversee the tobacco industry.

"The interests and objective of tobacco control are dramatically opposed to those of the tobacco industry, illustrated by the English expression, 'having the fox guard and chicken coop'," says Jeffery P. Koplan, director of Emory Global Health Institute, Emory University.

The tobacco industry and its related interest groups have launched many counter-tobacco control activities. These include, denying the scientific conclusions on the health hazards of smoking and claiming smoking is a person's right.

Yang said that the powerful industry uses a "low tar and low harm" marketing strategy to mislead the public. It also encourages tobacco consumption through disguised advertising, sponsorship and promotion.

As a result, Yang's surveys indicate there were an estimated 300 million smokers in China in 2010 and 740 million nonsmokers suffering from exposure to secondhand smoke, especially in public places and workplaces.

The number of deaths attributed to tobacco use has increased rapidly since 2000 in China and reached 1.2 million in 2005.

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