Health concerns go up in smoke in China: World Non-Smoking Day is a non-starter in Yunnan, reports Teresa Poole from Kunming

AT THE Kunming cigarette factory in Yunnan province, there is a German machine that rolls 6,000 cigarettes a minute. It is an awesome sight, compared with the antiquated machinery to be found in many of China's state enterprise factories. The factory manager, Chen Chuanbai, has none of the problems of other state industry bosses whose unwanted products languish in warehouses. Yunnan, the premier tobacco province of China, makes 265 billion cigarettes a year and still cannot meet demand. This is just as well in one respect; Yunnan is a very poor region and the provincial government relies on tobacco taxes for four-fifths of its total revenues.

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.'

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin