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Cigarette posters still prevalent as ad ban looms

Source:China Daily

Wang Xiaodong

Updated: 2015-06-30

Tobacco advertising is still visible in nearly half of all tobacco stores just two months before a new law takes effect that bans such advertising in public places.

The situation points to the challenge that could await enforcement of a comprehensive tobacco ad prohibition in China, where the number of smokers exceeds 300 million, the most of any country in the world.

Tobacco advertisements were found at more than 45 percent of tobacco sale points, according to a survey released recently by the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control.

The survey, organized by the association and conducted earlier this month, covered 507 tobacco sales points, including convenience stores and tobacco shops in supermarkets, in five areas in China, including Shanghai, Beijing and Henan province.

Posters and product showcasing are two of the major types of ads, the survey found.

Of the tobacco sales points surveyed, only eight sold cigarettes exclusively. The others sold other products, such as wine, food, tea and beverages.

The survey also queried tobacco store shoppers. Of the 6,595 shoppers surveyed, 64.2 percent bought non-tobacco products. About 23 percent of stores were frequented by teenagers, the survey found.

Detailed regulations

"The result shows tobacco sales points also serve nonsmokers, and advertising should be eliminated in such public places," said Xu Guihua, deputy president of the association. "The tobacco industry is still relying on sales points as an important platform of tobacco advertisement and promotion."

The Advertisement Law, which was adopted in April by the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, bans tobacco advertisement on all mass media and in public places and outdoor places as of Sept 1.

The NPC is currently working on more detailed regulations for effective implementation of the law, but some in the tobacco industry have recommended exemption of tobacco sale points, said Yang Gonghuan, former deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, Angela Pratt, head of the Tobacco Free Initiative at the World Health Organization's China office, said classifying tobacco sale points as nonpublic places "defies common sense".

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which China ratified in 2005, states that advertising or display of tobacco products at tobacco sale points are not allowed, she said.

Ying Songnian, a law professor at China University of Political Science and Law, said existing domestic and international laws have clear definition of public places. Any exemption allowing tobacco sales points ads should be clearly stated in the Advertisement Law, he said.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission said more than 700 million people are exposed to tobacco in China and more than 1 million people die each year due to diseases related to smoking.

Huang Jiefu, director of the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control and a former vice-health minister, said tobacco control is an arduous task. China's monopoly tobacco industry has long been one of the most important sources of tax revenue for the government.

"It is a duel between those who consider the health of the millions of people as the priority and those who get interests from the powerful tobacco industry," he said.


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