Experts call for more tobacco control

( ) Updated: 2013-12-06 11:23:57

As health is the people's top priority, the Chinese government should do more to control tobacco, experts say.

At a three-day seminar on tobacco control that ended in Beijing, Hu Angang, director of the Research Center for Contemporary China at Tsinghua University, said tobacco is the biggest killer in China, and it is not just a public health issue, but involves the sustainable development of the whole nation.

While the government works on economic renewal, transformation of tobacco industry must be addressed and the tobacco supply reduced, Hu said.

China is the world's largest cigarette producer and consumer. The number of smokers exceeds 300 million, with at least 740 million nonsmokers regularly exposed to secondhand smoke.

Zhi Xiuyi, head of the Lung Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment Center of the Capital Medical University, said the top four killers in China, namely cardiovascular disorders, malignant tumors, respiratory disorders and heart disease, are all related to tobacco.

In 2003, China signed the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and it became effective in January 2006. The FCTC requires a reduction in tobacco supply as well as consumption. The 12th Five-Year plan (2011-2015) promised to ban smoking in public places.

Experts are widely critical of the current government effort, describing it as lagging far behind the FCTC standard, and no national law is yet in place banning smoking in indoor public places.

Wang Qingbin, associate professor with the China University of Political Science and Law, believes that although local rules were established in 2007 in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Harbin, and other cities,enforcement has been far from satisfactory.

"There are no clear punishment clauses in most of the regulations, and even in cities with punitive stipulations, only a few fines were issued. The responsible departments simply turn a blind eye because they don't have enough money to hire special staff," he said.

Last December, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), the Ministry of Health and six other government departments released the China Tobacco Control Program (2012-2015), to reduce tobacco use and reduce tobacco planting. The program is the first at state level on tobacco control, and marked a new phase for comprehensive tobacco control.

Angela Pratt, a technical officer with the Tobacco Free Initiative of the WHO Representative Office in China, called for more government effort on banning tobacco advertising, graphic warnings on cigarette packs, and raising taxes.

"These measures are included in the FCTC, have proved effective in other countries and helped saved millions of lives," she said.

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