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Experts: Get tough on tobacco ad ban

By Shan Juan | China Daily | Updated: 2015-07-17 07:52

Anti-tobacco activists and public health experts have called for the strict enforcement of the newly revised law banning tobacco advertising in public places.

The law, which will take effect on Sept 1, has so far failed to clearly define "public places".

Activists denounced the leeway that has been left for tobacco advertising.

As China has geared up its tobacco control measures, introducing smoking bans in many cities and raising tobacco taxes, the State monopoly industry reported a 9.5 percent half-year increase in its contribution to the State coffers.

"The tobacco industry has been struggling hard to reach new potential customers, so any loopholes should be plugged regarding the coming law," said Wang Ke'an, director of the Beijing-based anti-smoking advocacy group ThinkTank at a media event on Wednesday.

A recent survey found advertising is still in abundance at cigarette retail outlets, which owners argue are privately owned and not "public places" subject to the ban.

According to ThinkTank, China has 5.4 million such outlets, and 23 percent of them allow access to minors, who are considered the most susceptible to advertisements.

"There should be no exemptions while defining 'public places' in the advertisement law," Wang said.

The tobacco industry lobby has called for cigarette retail stores to be an exception, she said.

Wang Zhenyu, a lawyer in Beijing, said "public places" refers to locations to which the public has access, regardless of ownership.

"That's also in line with the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which China ratified in 2005," he said.

Zheng Pinpin, a professor of health communication at Fudan University in Shanghai, said, "The industry is now desperate to foster alternatives to cigarettes to maintain profits."

After Beijing enacted the toughest public-place smoking ban on June 1, "electronic cigarettes have figured prominently in evading the ban", she said.

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