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Smoke-free Expo turns down huge sponsorship

THE Shanghai World Expo 2010 organizer yesterday rejected a massive tobacco sponsorship deal in line with China's anti-smoking initiative and to promote a healthy image for the event.

The 200 million yuan (US$29.3 million) package from Shanghai Tobacco Group, the biggest Expo sponsorship deal to date, was initially accepted by the organizer on May 7.

The money was at that stage earmarked to partially fund the construction of the China Pavilion, according to the Bureau of Shanghai World Expo Coordination's Website.

However, the sponsorship announcement aroused concern among health experts, who said accepting the deal was not in line with the bureau's pledge to offer a "green and smoke-free" Expo.

More than 20 experts issued a joint letter in Beijing earlier this month to call on the Expo organizer to turn down the tobacco sponsorship.

They said acceptance would violate the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a worldwide paper issued by the World Health Organization in 2003.

The framework bans all tobacco commercials and sponsorship at international events.

China signed the agreement in November 2003, and it became effective in 2005.

According to the Expo Website, donors receive a tax break and those who give more than 1 million yuan will have their names carved into a wall at China Pavilion.

Now that it has rejected the tobacco group's sponsorship, the biggest donation stands at 100 million yuan, given by a Hong Kong multi-millionaire.

Supporters of the tobacco group's donation said the 200 million yuan would contribute significantly to building the China Pavilion.

City health officials, however, yesterday welcomed the rejection and said the Expo should set an anti-smoking example.

Zhang Liqiang, director of Shanghai Health Education Institute, said it was a "meaningful" step that reflected the city government's determination in making a smoke-free Expo.

Biggest consumer

"It is also good to promote the legislation of the city's first anti-smoking law, which will be discussed by Shanghai People's Congress next month," said Zhang, one of the draft's creators. "The local congress is likely to pass the law this year end and legislate it before the Expo."

China is now the largest tobacco producing and consuming country in the world.

A third of the world's smokers, or about 350 million people, are in China. An estimated 1.2 million people die every year from illnesses associated with tobacco.


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