The World Health Organization is all but ignored in China, it seems, as tobacco production has almost doubled in the 10 years since China signed a WHO convention to curb tobacco.
In 2002, just before China signed the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the nation produced 1.75 trillion cigarettes. That number rose to 2.58 trillion annually by 2012, according to a new report entitled Tobacco Control in China from a Civil Society Perspective 2013, from the Beijing-based think tank Research Center for Health Development.
While the Chinese government signed the convention and vowed to control tobacco, China has fallen behind many other signatory members, said Wang Ke’an, director of the research center, the Global Times reported on Thursday. In a 2012 assessment report, China was awarded only two out of 16 points for banning smoking in public places including schools and hospitals. Its curb on tobacco advertising has not won any credits either.
Tobacco production is a lucrative business in China. The industry paid a total of 864.9 billion yuan ($141.9 billion) in taxes in 2012 and handed 716.7 billion yuan to the state treasury, the equivalent of 8 percent of the national tax income, according to People’s Daily.
Some local governments actively encourage development in the tobacco industry as a boost to the local economy. In the township of Enshi in the Hubei Province, for example, the tobacco industry has generated 5.1 billion yuan and is a mainstay supporting impoverished locals.
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The Chinese Health Ministry surveyed hotels and restaurants in four regions in China and found that only 6.1 percent had designated smoking areas and only 1.4 percent had anti-smoking signs. In addition, most cigarette packages have only a small health warning on them, instead of covering at least one-third of the package, as stipulated by the WHO convention.
"These signs are an essential part of tobacco control, which would work with the legal efforts to gradually change the smoking habit," Wang said, adding that civil servants should set a good example to society in banning smoking, according to the Global Times.