China / Society

A History of Tobacco in China

( Updated: 2014-01-13 11:23

Panda cigarettes that could hardly be found in stores around the country before were made famous by late leader Deng Xiaoping, said Zheng Meili, a saleswoman at Shanghai Famous Brand Tobacco & Wine Shop, said in a 2004 China Daily report. Low cigarette taxes, easy accessibility, and enticing advertisements have kept cigarettes consumption on the rise.

A History of Tobacco in China

An excerpt from aChina Daily report in 2004.

China again became serious about anti-smoking causes in 2003, when the Chinese government signed the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and started a national clamp-down on tobacco in 2006. However, most outspoken non-governmental organizations and experts in the field believed China has been doing a poor job of curbing smoking and protecting its people from the "silent killer." "China's been controlling tobacco and smoking for 10 years. However, the number of smokers and those exposed to secondhand smoke have has not dwindled at all," said Wu Yiqun, deputy director of Think Tank, a civil society committed to tobacco and smoking control, in an interview with China Daily in December, 2013.

A History of Tobacco in China

A screen grab from World Health Organization's website.

Statistics from the National Health and Family Planning Commission showed the smoking rate among men is 52.96 percent, and more than 28 percent of people older than 15 light up. About 1.4 million Chinese die from smoking-related diseases every year on the mainland, accounting for one-third of the world's total.

The most blame went to China Tobacco, a Chinese government-granted monopoly firm which now holds 90% of the market, as the biggest hurdle to the nation's anti-smoking drive, whose argument that "tobacco contributes revenues, jobs and incomes" is a formidable barrier to tobacco control. After all, for an industry providing as much as 10 percent of its country's overall tax revenue, there is always entangled interests.

A History of Tobacco in China

Logos of China Tobacco in Qingdao city of Shandong province on March 6, 2013. [Photo/]

China's current generation of top leaders are a marked contrast to their predecessors: none of the current members of the Central Politburo Standing Committee, the all-powerful seven-man group that runs the country, are smokers. President Xi Jinping's wife is a vocal anti-smoking campaigner.

A History of Tobacco in China

Peng Liyuan (L), China's anti-smoking ambassador, and Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, attend an anti-smoking campaign ahead of the 25th World No-Tobacco Day, in Beijing, May 29, 2012. Some Chinese officials also attended the event. World No-Tobacco Day falls on May 31 every year. [Photo by Lou Linwei/Asianewsphoto]

On Dec 29, 2013, Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council issued a special instruction that officials are not allowed to smoke in schools, hospitals, sports venues, public transport vehicles, or any other venues where smoking is banned. Chinese officials were asked to "take the lead" in adhering to the smoking ban in public spaces in the instruction.

A History of Tobacco in China

A No-Smoking sign is pictured in a restaurant in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong province, Feb 28, 2013. [Photo/]

On a press conference held by China's State Council News Office on Jan 7, the country's National Health and Family Planning Commission spokesman announced it's will roll out a nationwide smoking ban in public places by year's end. The expansion of the ban showed the determination of Chinese central government in the anti-smoking campaign, and is wide expected to be able to change the course of the tobacco epidemic within China.

A History of Tobacco in China

Mao Qun'an, spokesman of China's National Health and Family Planning Commission, speaks at a a press conference held by China's State Council News Office on Jan 7, 2014. [Photo/]

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