China works towards ban on tobacco ads

CHINA is working towards a total ban on tobacco advertising.

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress yesterday began deliberations on a revised draft of the Advertising Law, according to Xinhua (the New China News Agency).

Other controversial legislation being examined by the legislators is prison law, the law on health care for mothers and babies, publication law and revisions to the current air pollution law.

The revised Advertising Law was aimed at 'better control over advertising on pharmaceuticals, cigarettes and food', Xinhua said.

Although the full text of the draft was not released, Xinhua said it banned 'advertising of cigarettes through use of radio broadcasting, cinema, television, newspapers and periodicals'.

Moreover, tobacco manufacturers would be required to print health hazard warnings on cigarette packages to remind consumers the 'harm of smoking to people's health', Xinhua said.

The new legislation is expected to provide a basic legal framework to foreign advertisers who are attracted by the lucrative China market.

However, it could provide new obstacles to the advertising campaigns of many foreign tobacco companies.

Foreign advertisers estimate that total annual expenditure by the advertising industry in China amounted to at least HK$23 billion and was growing at an astonishing rate of 50 per cent a year.

Marlboro alone reportedly spent as much as HK$12 million on advertising in China last year.

In addition to the tobacco advertising ban, the Advertising Law would raise penalties for false advertising, especially by those providing medical products and drugs.

Part of the proposed legislation stipulated that advertising would be banned on anaesthetics, toxic pharmaceuticals and psychiatric medicines.

Stricter requirements would be imposed on pharmaceuticals. Advertisements would have to be accompanied by notes that they could only be purchased and used according to doctors' prescriptions.

The new law also bans the use of medical terms in advertisements for food and alcoholic products.

Unlike the Advertising Law, the Prison Law introduced by Justice Minister Xi Yang yesterday contained few apparent changes, following a 1982 law on the management of prisons and labour re-education camps, according to Robin Munro, spokesman of the Human Rights Watch/Asia.

In explaining the proposed draft to the legislators, Mr Xi said it upheld the 'rule that punishment and education should be combined for inmates'.

'He [Xi] said such a law, would better protect legal rights of prisoners, and set the prison management system on the legal track,' Xinhua reported.

But Mr Munro said it appeared the new legislation contained 'cosmetic instead of substantial' changes.

He said it would remain to be seen whether the final legislation matched its stated aim of implementing the United Nations' treaty on prisoners' rights.

And, according to Yu Youxian, the Administrator for Publication, the proposed Publication Law provided a 'strict management system for publication in the country [and] encourages and protects legal publishing activities'.

'All the citizens' legitimate rights to air intentions, opinions and show research results in publications should be guaranteed, as stipulated by the constitution of China,' Xinhua quoted Mr Yu as saying.

The semi-official China News Service said the draft law bans the publication of seditious materials and articles which contained state secrets, pornography and violence and propagated superstition.

Other restrictions banned articles which opposed the constitution, endangered national unification and threatened national security.

Another key feature of the Publication Law was that it would provide law enforcers the means to crack down on piracy, Xinhua said.

However, only minor changes were made to the controversial Eugenics Law which is now renamed the 'Law on Maternal and Infantile Health Care'.

Apart from changing the name and abandoning the use of the word 'eugenics' in the legislation, the draft still contained some controversial clauses requiring medical institutions to give advice to women whose pregnancies would threaten their lives or adversely affect the development of embryos.

'The new name can better reflect our intention,' said Cai Cheng, Vice-Chairman of the NPC's Law Committee.

Other legislation deliberated by the NPC Standing Committee yesterday covered the introduction of a permit for the discharge of air pollutants.