Mainland authorities have published a plan to reduce the world's largest population of smokers as part of a 2005 treaty, but without implementing recommendations such as warning labels that include photos of rotten teeth and diseased lungs.
They plan to cut the number of smokers to 25 per cent of the population by 2015 from 28.1 per cent in 2010, according to the plan published by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology last week, seven years after the country signed the treaty that recommends the graphic warning labels.
The government will "comprehensively" prohibit smoking in public places and ban ads, promotion and sponsorship by tobacco companies, according to the plan. There is no mention of tax rates in the plan.
The mainland has more than 300 million smokers, including half the adult male population, and about 740 million people exposed to second-hand smoke, the ministry said. The tobacco industry accounts for 20 million jobs and contributed 6 per cent of fiscal revenues in 2010, it said.
"The plan carries a heavy smell of cigarettes," Wu Yiqun, a director at the Beijing-based ThinkTank Research Centre for Health Development. "It's a compromise result between the tobacco industry and the Health Ministry, and it seems the tobacco side has the upper hand." The State Tobacco Monopoly Administration was involved in the plan's preparation.
Wu, a former deputy director at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, singled out the lack of graphic photos as a weakness.
Australia, Canada and most European Union members have introduced such warnings or have agreed to do so, according to the World Health Organisation website.
"It means China's tobacco control efforts will be weak compared to mainstream international practices," Wu said. The lack of any plan to increase taxes on tobacco is another weakness, she said.
Smoking, which is linked to a million deaths a year in China, is endangering the labour force, Health Minister Chen Zhu said in April.
Cigarette production and consumption in China increased by 3 per cent last year, according to data from Bloomberg Industries. China's share of world cigarette consumption increased to 40 per cent last year from 35 per cent in 2006. Consumption in the rest of the world has declined steadily since 2000.
The new tobacco-control plan was jointly prepared by the ministries of industry, health, finance and foreign affairs; and the general administrations of tobacco, customs, safety and industry and commerce.