China / Society

Tough new laws on tobacco advertising lauded by WHO

By WANG XIAODONG ( Updated: 2015-08-31 20:40

The World Health Organization (WHO) has welcomed new restrictions on tobacco advertising that take effect in China on Tuesday.

"WHO strongly supports the introduction of new restrictions on tobacco advertising contained in China’s revised Advertising Law which takes effect this week," said Bernhard Schwartländer, WHO Representative in China.

"Banning all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship is one of the most cost-effective measures governments can take to protect the public from the harms of addiction to tobacco use," he said.

From Sept 1, it will be prohibited to advertise tobacco products in mass media, public places, on public transport and outdoors in China. Distribution of any form of tobacco advertising to minors will also be prohibited. Previously, billboard advertising and advertising in some public places was allowed.

"We particularly welcome the revised law’s emphasis on protecting young people from tobacco advertising. This is crucially important: most smokers start when they are young, and young people are especially susceptible to tobacco marketing. Stopping young people from starting smoking is almost like a vaccine – it is protecting them for life," said Schwartländer.

"The implementation of China’s new restrictions is another important step forward for China in tackling the high rate of tobacco use, and in China meeting its obligations under the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC)," Schwartländer added.

The WHO FCTC calls for a comprehensive ban on all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. The guidelines to the WHO FCTC – adopted by all parties including China – state that the comprehensive ban should apply to ‘all forms of commercial communication or action … with the aim, effect, or likely effect of promoting a tobacco product or tobacco use either directly or indirectly’.

"Having this new law on the books is a terrific step forward. WHO now looks forward to seeing it comprehensively enforced – so that all forms of tobacco advertising, including in shops and at other tobacco retail points of sale – are banned," Schwartländer said.

Advertising at retail points of sale is used by the tobacco industry to target young people. According to data from the China Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 4 per cent of Chinese adults say they noticed tobacco advertisements in stores in the previous 30 days. When asked the same question, more than 40 per cent of teenagers aged 13 to 15 said they had noticed tobacco advertising at retail points of sale – a tenfold difference.

"Enforcing a comprehensive ban on all forms of tobacco advertising – including in all public places – has the potential to save millions of lives. WHO will be closely monitoring the enforcement effort to ensure that all forms of tobacco advertising are consigned to the dustbin of history, where they belong," Schwartländer said.

China is the world's largest producer and consumer of tobacco products. There are more than 300 million smokers in the country. More than 1 million people die from tobacco-related illness annually – around 3,000 people every day. In addition, more than 700 million people are routinely exposed to second-hand smoke, which kills approximately 100,000 people a year.

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