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WHO urges total ban on tobacco advertising in China

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-04-17 10:34

BEIJING - The World Health Organization (WHO) and other tobacco control organizations on Thursday called on China to ban tobacco advertising.

The move came days ahead of the third review of a draft amendment to China's Advertisement Law by the nation's top legislature.

Though being applauded for its wider ban of tobacco ads, the amendment is criticized for exempting advertising at points of sale.

"All forms of tobacco advertising, in all settings, including at retail points of sale, should be banned," said Angela Pratt, head of the Tobacco Free Initiative at WHO's China office.

She said that China has a legal obligation to implement policies contained within the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which the country ratified in 2005.

The global tobacco control treaty requires a total ban on tobacco advertising.

Pratt said that young people should be protected from tobacco marketing.

"A ban which exempts points of sale is a ban which includes 5.4 million loopholes," she said.

Independent research has found that point-of-sale tobacco advertising is one of the causes of teen smoking in China, where nearly one-third of the world's smokers live.

As the world's largest tobacco maker and consumer, China has more than 350 million smokers and another 700 million-plus people exposed to second-hand smoke each year.

The latest controversy reflects an uphill anti-smoking battle in China, where scholars, health and legal professionals and tobacco experts have been urging the national legislative body to fully outlaw tobacco advertising.

The bill is expected to be tabled to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress for the third reading at its bi-monthly session next week.

Current laws ban direct tobacco advertising, but major loopholes allow "stealth" marketing such as charity campaigns or via social media.

Xu Guihua, vice head of the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control, said there should be a ban on all tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion of tobacco products.

"We need to seize the opportunity," she said. "Otherwise maybe we need to wait another 20 years for the next amendment. "

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