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Vision for tobacco control

China Daily | Updated: 2013-05-30 08:13

"Ban tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion" is the theme of this year's World No Tobacco Day on Friday. This will be hard in China, because of the strong tobacco industry that stands in the way.

That the country's national TV station China Central Television still broadcasts ads for tobacco companies speaks volumes about how hard the battle will be. In a country where there are more than 300 million smokers, 24.6 percent of the world's total, and where the number of junior smokers has surpassed 5 million, tobacco control is urgently needed.

It is easier to pick up a bad habit than a good one. So it is easy for an actor who smokes in a movie or in a tobacco advertisement to entice impressionable young people to start smoking. However, it is very difficult for smokers to cultivate the awareness and the willpower to quit once they become addicted.

It is also difficult for media of all kinds to resist the temptation of the money tobacco companies offer and even harder for both the central and local governments to launch a real fight against them, as the tobacco companies provide jobs and taxes.

However, as a signatory to the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, China must commit itself to its obligation of promoting tobacco control by banning all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

Such a move will cater to the needs of the more than 700 million victims of secondhand smoking. When Beijing solicited public opinion on its regulations for tobacco control early this year, 90 percent of those who gave their opinion supported wider tobacco control.

Greater awareness of the harm smoking poses to human health will help raise the overall health of citizens, especially if smokers become more aware of the harm their habit can do to others.

So it is more than necessary for the government to better facilitate the ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship by strengthening its tobacco control law and more effectively enforcing the existing regulations.

Both central and local governments need a vision for the future on this issue, and should not let the immediate interests of the tobacco industry blind them to the long-term harm tobacco does to the health of the nation.

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