Pollution isn’t the only thing contributing to the deteriorating air quality and health of China's citizens. According to a new study, the national smoking habit has exposed its young to not only to smoke but also to some memorable tobacco branding.
According to a new study released by medical journal Pediatrics, nine in 10 Chinese children between ages 5 and 6 are able to correctly identify cigarette logos. The study looked at a cross-section of the world’s countries with the highest smoking rates, which included Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Russia. Of the six nations, Chinese children reported the highest recognition rate, with 86 percent of youngsters able to identify at least one cigarette brand, perhaps not surprising in a nation of some 350 million smokers.
The logos that were shown to children included international tobacco brands Marlboro and Camel, in addition to regionally specific local brands. The methodology was a matching game where children were asked to match a company’s logos from various industries with pictures of their products. “In China, on average, kids knew almost four out of eight brands,” the lead author of the study, the University of Marlyand’s Dina Borzekowski, told the AFP. “These are little kids. The idea that they can recognize logos at this young an age is amazing.”
The study now has many concerned that international bans on tobacco advertising that targets children are being ignored in low-to-middle-income economies and emerging markets, like China, where a prevalent historic smoking culture makes the country an easy target. “The problem is in low- and middle-income countries, I don’t think there is good regulation,” Borzekowski explained. “So even though the laws are on the books, they may not be adhered to.” She said that cigarette-brand recognition occurred even in children who did not live in smoking homes. “What that says to me is they are getting their messages through the community, in their environments,” Borzekowski said. “They are seeing it at retail establishments, they are seeing posters. When they go off to buy a piece of candy at a local store, they are seeing these logos.”
In the past, China has had difficulty enforcing laws and bans directed at limiting smoking. While last May’s Five-Year development plan announced that smokers were banned from smoking in public spaces and establishments like hotels and restaurants, those who do not adhere to these rules are rarely penalized or enforced. According to a report by the Telegraph, even China’s Ministry of Health has been unable to ban smoking in its offices.