Opinion / From the Press

Reform State-owned tobacco industry

By Li Yang (chinadaily.com.cn) Updated: 2014-12-01 11:26

Chinese government must reform the State-owned tobacco industry in the first place. Otherwise, it will be impossible to effectively control nicotine use in the country, says an article in Guangzhou Daily. Excerpts:

China has more than 300 million smokers and hundreds of millions more second-hand smokers. If the loss in productivity caused by deaths related to tobacco use is taken into account, the State-run tobacco industry loses money in fact.

The State Council plans to ban smoking in all public places in a draft national tobacco-control rule, which is said to be the harshest rule ever made in China to control tobacco use. Compared with previous rules, this one is more specific and detailed.

Chinese government banned smoking in public places as early as 1987. After China signed the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2006, the Chinese government passed more tobacco-control rules but few were actually implemented.

The new rule clearly stipulates that the legal representative of the government department, enterprises and the other public and social organizations should be in charge of implementing the rule and supervise the tobacco-control work. The new rule also clarifies the penalty measures. The new contents make the new rule the most implementable one of its kind. But before it has the legal-binding power, the new rule has no teeth.

The government should also provide necessary assistance to help smokers quit the habit.

Another difficulty for tobacco control in China is the weak public awareness, under the influence of a strong State-owned tobacco industry.

It remains a controversy in China whether the harm caused by smoking and second-hand smoking is a threat to public health or not. The mass media are filled with scenes of smoking. The young people are largely exposed in a culture that is so generous and forgiving to smoking.

The tobacco industry takes various means to resist or circumvent the tobacco-control measures. The interest groups related to the industry form the largest obstacle against China’s tobacco-control endeavors.

The endeavor is not a fight between smokers and non-smokers, but a public health issue that every member of the society should take part in to defend public health. Even the smokers will benefit from it.

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