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China Falls Short in its Tobacco Control Obligations

Note: World Lung Foundation united with The Union North America. From January 2016, the combined organization is known as “Vital Strategies.”

(New York, New York) -World Lung Foundation commented on the status of Chinese tobacco control as the deadline passed for implementing certain policy measures required under the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, a treaty China ratified in 2005 and that came into force in 2006. China is scheduled to deliver a report on its progress this month.

Dr. Judith Mackay, Senior Advisor, World Lung Foundation, said: “Signing this treaty was a major step forward for reducing tobacco use in China where one million people die every year from tobacco-related illnesses. This number could grow to two million people by 2020 if nothing is done. The Chinese government, however, has fallen short in implementing the treaty’s provisions. Cigarettes remain very cheap in China; smokefree laws have only been attempted in a handful of sub-national jurisdictions; tobacco companies continue to promote and advertise their products and cigarette pack warnings contain weak text-only messages. Moreover, tens of millions of Chinese citizens still do not fully grasp the health consequences of tobacco use, which means public education is badly needed.

Such measures have been put into place in Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand with positive results. When strong tobacco control measures were put in place, male smoking rates decreased in these and many countries around the world. While every country including China sees itself and its challenges as unique, in the Western Pacific and worldwide tobacco is the same. The health effects are the same, the obstacles are the same, and what needs to be done is the same. China only differs from its neighbors in the size of the problem.

We strongly urge the Chinese government to comprehensively ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship and implement completely smoke-free indoor workplaces, public places and public transport as a minimum. Raising the price of tobacco, bringing tobacco package warnings up to international standards and conducting strong mass media education campaigns would dramatically improve Chinese public health and show that China is serious about its health commitment to its citizens and its treaty promises to the international community.”