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Moves to expose dangers of smoking
By Wu Chong (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-09-25 00:41

Thirteen State government departments are jointly lobbying the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), said a senior official with the Ministry of Health (MOH).

"The year 2005 will be critical for China's smoking control if the FCTC is ratified here," said Yang Qing, director of the MOH's department of women and children's health care and community hygiene.

China is currently the biggest tobacco producer and consumer in the world, with an annual output of 18 trillion cigarettes and 320 million smokers, Yang said.

"Moreover, almost all the tobacco produced by domestic companies is consumed by domestic nicotine addicts," he said.

That posed a great challenge to the country, and most difficult work is in talking to the people, especially rural people, about keeping away from tobacco.

Yang made the remarks on Thursday at a forum on the 2004 Quit & Win in China.

Started in 1994 with 60,000 contestants from 13 countries, the International Quit & Win is a biennial smoking cessation competition.

This year's event drew 700,000 participants from 73 countries, with 59,000 from the Chinese mainland.

Yang said China will continue taking advantage of the contest to militate against tobacco consumption.

"In the next few years, we will focus on raising public awareness about the dangers of smoking through various projects," said Yang Yan, an associate professor with the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Yang Yan, who works at the National Tobacco Control Office of the CDC, said the office is contemplating a big campaign to reduce the number of smokers in the medical profession.

"It will be launched next year to highlight the 18th World No Tobacco Day," she said.

She said almost 60 per cent of male medical professionals in China are addicted to nicotine.

"They set bad examples," she said.

"Another emphasis is to protect non-smokers, particularly children."

Concrete measures will include expanding non-smoking areas, restricting tobacco advertising and imposing higher tobacco taxes, she said.

"We cannot wait until the FCDC is ratified. We have to make preparations now," she said.

China has promised not to allow any more tobacco companies or the establishment of related joint ventures.

Smoking is a major threat to the health of human beings.

"There are 1.3 billion smokers worldwide, and 4 million people die from smoking-related diseases each year, twice as many as deaths connected to AIDS," said Dick Hallson, a senior official with World Health Organization (WHO) in China.

The WHO predicts the annual death toll caused by smoking will rise to 10 million in the next 25 years.

The FCTC is a legally binding treaty negotiated by the 192 member states of the WHO.

The world's first public health treaty, the FCTC contains a host of measures designed to reduce the devastating health and economic impacts of tobacco.

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