Screen clean of smoke

0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, February 17, 2011
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China's film industry grossed a record 10.17 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) at the box office last year.

Mindful of its powerful impact, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television asked the nation's filmmakers this week to make their productions free of smokers and tobacco products. In the administration's eyes, TV and films should not encourage smoking, especially among young people.

A survey by the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control showed that scenes of smoking were found in 31 out of 40 movies and 28 out of 30 TV sitcoms in 2009.

For many teenagers scenes of people smoking smack of maturity, sexual attraction, glamour and fashion. With such an easy means of attaining all they desire, it is no wonder so many succumb to the temptation of cigarettes and more young people join the large legion of smokers in the country every day.

Its efforts to remove smoking from our big screens and TV sitcoms have won the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television acclaim from the Ministry of Health and the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control.

However, its call to filmmakers is a shot that misses the mark.

Cigarettes are the bread and butter of many provinces, and indeed China. The nation's State Tobacco Monopoly Administration (STMA) paid 604.55 billion in taxes in 2010. Also, it contributed 498.85 billion yuan in profits to the national coffers, up 21.2 percent from one year earlier.

Since 1982 when the STMA was founded, everything involving tobacco, including production, marketing, imports and exports, has fallen under the jurisdiction of the STMA.

But according to a harshly worded report released on Jan 6 by a panel of Chinese and international health experts, an estimated 2 million Chinese people will die each year of tobacco-related illnesses if current smoking rates continue.

That figure is expected to rise to a staggering 3.5 million people by 2030 - which would account for nearly half the world's annual smoking-related deaths.

It is necessary for the government to do the math seriously on the cost of smoking for the nation.

While the government coffers continue to rely on tobacco revenues, just making TV and movies clean of smoking is simply a false front.

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