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August 8, 2009

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Experts question tobacco controls

THE efficacy of China's tobacco control system is under fire from experts who consider the industry does not take adequate supervision measures, an official of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said in Beijing yesterday.

Chen Siyi, an anti-tobacco advocate from Thinktank Research Center for Health Development, said the industry had a "notorious system."

China's tobacco industry supervisory administration (STMA), also known as the China National Tobacco Corporation, represents tobacco companies and has an interest in their profits.

"Given these special conditions, it is hard for the STMA to cut supply or take measures to fulfill China's pledge to control smoking," Chen said.

"Deputies to the National People's Congress have suggested supervisory administration be separated from the one responsible for profit, but has received no positive answers from tobacco interests," said Yang Gonghuan, vice president of China CDC.

China, the world's largest tobacco producer and consumer, signed the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2003.

The convention took effect in China in 2006, and China promised to unconditionally control tobacco for the good of its people's health.

Government organizations have done work and showed initiatives to implement the convention guidelines, said Wu Yiqun, vice executive director of the research center.

Among these, Shanghai World Expo organizers rejected a 200-million-yuan (US$29.27-million) tobacco sponsorship in July and the Ministry of Civil Affairs had removed six tobacco companies last December from the candidates for the China Charity Award.

The Finance Ministry and the State Administration of Taxation have also increased taxes on tobacco products.

According to the Framework Convention, results of smoking must be clearly stated on cigarette and tobacco packets, and health warnings in words and pictures should take up no less than 30 percent of the package area.

But the STMA had failed to supervise Chinese tobacco groups in this aspect, Wu said. "Words on packets in China have hardly any warning effect."


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