Health concerns go up in smoke in China: World Non-Smoking Day is a non-starter in Yunnan, reports Teresa Poole from Kunming
Tuesday 31 May 1994
Today is World Non- Smoking Day but it is unlikely to make much impact in Yunnan. Mr Chen's main preoccupations at the moment are the opening of an even more modern production line, and boosting exports, which account for only a tiny proportion of output. He shows off one of the factory's brands, Sanchi, which is targeted at Japanese women.
'Firstly these cigarettes can treat bronchitis,' he says. 'Also the packaging is quite fashionable which will enable these ladies to look smart. We got a professional doctor who has a PhD to study Sanchi, and he concluded that it really offers very good treatment for people's health. Especially it can give slow treatment for bronchitis.'
In Peking, Dr Zhang Yifang, the vice-president of the Association on Smoking and Health, faces a considerable challenge. China is the world's biggest manufacturer and seller of tobacco; in 1993, 1.6 billion cigarettes were sold in China to its 300 million smokers. According to Dr Zhang, 60 per cent of men over 15 years old, and 9 per cent of women are smokers.
The numbers are rising, with the most marked increases among women and teenagers. Smoking is already the country's biggest killer, and Dr Zhang reckons that if it is not reduced, by the year 2030 there will be 3.17 million smoking-related deaths a year.
For Dr Zhang there are too many Goliaths to slay. The tobacco industry is the biggest single earner for central government tax coffers and last year contributed a total 41bn yuan ( pounds 3.4bn). Secondly, smoking is culturally and socially ingrained in the Chinese way of life and economic reform has only increased the attraction of a cigarette packet as a status symbol. Finally, China is viewed by Western cigarette manufacturers, who face ever stricter health and cultural pressures on their home turf, as the world's most attractive potential market.
China's tobacco industry is still a state monopoly, but it is the activities and promotions of foreign companies that concern the anti-smoking lobby the most. Last year, for instance, Philip Morris, whose Marlboro Man stares down from billboards across China, signed an agreement with the state China National Tobacco Corp to manufacture and sell cigarettes in China.
On paper, China has strict laws on smoking: cigarette packets must carry a health warning; advertisements are banned on television, radio and in the print media; and there is even a 1989 regulation that bans or limits smoking in public places.
In practice, billboards are the main vehicle for advertising, sponsorship and the use of brand-names often get around the restrictions on direct advertising, and everyone smokes everywhere, encouraged by the ubiquitous smokers in Chinese-made films and television programmes.
In Yunnan, where long- term health costs take second place to short-term budget considerations, Mr He says: 'In the domestic market, supply is still short of demand. We also want to reduce prices of the best brands. Basically, our aim is to try to produce more volume, and cut prices.'
- 1 Michael Brown shooting: Police shoot and kill second young black man near Ferguson
- 2 James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
- 3 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns aged 27
- 4 Cilla Black defends Cliff Richard: 'I am positive that the allegations are without foundation'
- 5 James Foley 'beheading': Met police warn public watching murder video could be criminal offence
James Foley 'beheaded': PM cuts holiday short for emergency meeting on British response to latest Isis atrocity
Michael Brown shooting: Police shoot and kill second young black man near Ferguson
ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns aged 27
James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
Iraq crisis: Islamic State's message to America - 'We will drown you all in blood'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Russell Brand calls for Israel boycott: Comedian urges big businesses that 'facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza' to pull funding
Ukip MEP calls for reintroduction of death penalty on fiftieth anniversary of last deaths
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...
£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Full Stack ...
£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...
£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pilla...