China / Society

Decision to honor museum questioned

By Wang Hongyi in Shanghai (China Daily) Updated: 2012-07-19 07:38

Residents and experts questioned Shanghai's decision to honor a tobacco museum for its service as an education base for teenagers.

The China Tobacco Museum in Shanghai, said to be the largest of its kind in the world, opened in 2004. It was built by the country's tobacco enterprises.

Decision to honor museum questioned 

A press release on the museum's website said it was honored for its excellent performance in serving as the city's education base from 2010 to 2011. The honor was granted by the Shanghai Municipal Party Committee's publicity department, the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission and the Shanghai Committee of China Communist Youth League.

The decision to honor the museum was opposed by some residents and anti-smoking activists.

"It's widely known that tobacco is harmful to your health and may cause various diseases. How can such a museum be selected as patriotic education base? Supervision departments should pay attention to it," said Li Haitao of Tianjin.

The museum has seven exhibition halls and each of them tells a different story, covering the history of the development of the tobacco industry, tobacco farming, tobacco trade, tobacco management, tobacco and smoking control and tobacco culture.

The museum was selected as an education base in 2008, and announced that it would be open to the public free of charge.

"Many of those who are against the museum have never visited the museum, which provides a platform for people to understand the stories behind tobacco," Tang Weichang, an official from the museum, told China Daily on Tuesday.

"Here they can have more understanding of tobacco farming and the origin of China's tobacco industry," he added.

In the past eight years, the museum has attracted more than 300,000 visitors, and 80 percent of them are involved in tobacco industry, according to Tang.

The press release announcing that the museum had been honored was removed from its website on Tuesday.

"I visited the museum last year. It has a wealth of materials and information on tobacco, but most of them are about tobacco production technology as well as its huge economic profit. The harm and health risks caused by tobacco only account for a very small part," said renowned tobacco control expert Cui Xiaobo, a social medicine professor at Capital Medical University.

"The exhibition of China's tobacco industry emphasizes the great contribution to the country's economy, but it is at the cost of the loss of public health," Cui said.

"We have already addressed Shanghai authorities, asking them to withdraw the selection of the China Tobacco Museum as an education base," Zhang Jing, staff member of the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control, told China Daily.

"They replied that they have received our request, but did not give further information," she said.

An official named Wei from the Shanghai Municipal Party Committee's publicity department told China Daily on Wednesday that "relevant departments" are aware of the public outcry on the issue and are discussing it.

He declined to give his full name and did not elaborate.

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