Campaigners call for blanket ban on tobacco advertising in China

Campaigners say changes to the law should honour China's commitment under a treaty to outlaw all forms of promotion for smoking

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 June, 2014, 4:35am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 June, 2014, 4:35am

Anti-smoking campaigners on the mainland have criticised proposed changes to its advertising laws for stopping short of a blanket ban on tobacco adverts.

The draft amendments propose extending the ban on the promotion of tobacco products from older forms of media such as television, films and newspapers to include the internet and mobile telecommunications.

The venues where tobacco advertising is banned are also likely to be extended to include public areas and buildings such as libraries, museums, parks, hospitals, schools, and public transport.

Anti-smoking activists, however, say the legislation does not go far enough.

China has signed the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which requires it to ban all forms of advertising promoting smoking.

Zeng Fanyu, the director of the general office at the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control, said the law should be further strengthened. "Tobacco advertising can appear wherever there is an opportunity. You see these advertisements in supermarkets, on the back of train tickets, the cover of a train seat and on poker cards. Anything can be a media platform for tobacco without a comprehensive ban."

The draft proposals were passed last week and will be submitted to the law committee of the national legislature, the National People's Congress.

A survey released by the China Centre for Disease Control and Prevention two weeks ago suggested nearly half of all children aged 13 to 15 had seen tobacco advertisements in the previous 30 days and 2 per cent of pupils had received free samples of tobacco.

Yang Gonghuan, a professor at the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, said the draft legislation should honour China's commitments under the anti-tobacco treaty.

"We think this is a good opportunity to make domestic legislation in line with the convention and we propose a comprehensive ban on all forms of advertising, promotion and sponsorship," said Yang.

China is the world's largest cigarette manufacturer and consumer, with more than 300 million smokers, according to national statistics.

Some 740 million people, including 180 million children, are affected by passive smoking.

More than one million people on the mainland die of diseases related to smoking each year and there are another 100,000 deaths related to passive smoking, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.