Peking counts profits from over a trillion cigarettes
Tuesday 26 August 1997
Why does the Chinese government tobacco monopoly not just simply stop producing cigarettes, was the blunt question put yesterday to the Health Minister, Chen Minzhang, who had just warned that 100 million of Chinese males under the age of 30 were destined to die from tobacco-related diseases? "The tobacco industry in China is still a strong economic sector," Mr Chen admitted. Smokers "cannot quit smoking in a day" and there would still be a big demand for cigarettes if China stopped production, he added.
While the Chinese government likes to point the finger at Western cigarette manufacturers and their advertising efforts on the mainland, in reality it is the government-produced cigarettes which account for almost all the tobacco smoked in China.
The statistics for the state-owned China National Tobacco Corporation (CNTC) are mind-boggling. Last year it produced and sold 1,700,000,000,000 cigarettes, about one-third of the world market or about the same number as the three largest multinational tobacco companies combined. CNTC employs 10 million Chinese farmers growing tobacco leaf, more than 500,000 workers in the industry, and 3 million retailers.
CNTC is also itself becoming a leading exporter of tobacco. According to the World Health Organisation, Chinese export revenue from tobacco was US$600 million in 1995. Further immediate economic benefit comes from domestic tax revenues from tobacco, the largest single source of revenue for the government. Tobacco taxes raised 83 billion yuan (pounds 6.4 billion) in 1996, compared with 14.5 billion yuan a decade earlier.
How seriously should one therefore take Mr Chen and the Chinese government's protestations that they are doing their best to limit smoking? Yin Dakui, the vice-minster of health, yesterday pointed out that many cities in China ban advertisements for cigarettes "especially foreign cigarettes". The government is also opposed to advertisements "in disguise" such as sports sponsorship.
Why then is Marlboro the sponsor of the China National Soccer League, the most widely followed sports event in China? Sport, like cigarette production, is completely state-run on the mainland and the decision to choose Marlboro was thus made by a government department.
Similarly, China's state- controlled propaganda machine is highly effective, and at the moment is making sure that even a peasant in a remote rural village knows that the 15th Communist Party Congress is soon upon us. But it seems to have forgotten to tell much of China about new rules implemented on 1 May this year banning smoking on all forms of public transport. During several weeks this summer travelling in western China, this correspondent failed to travel on one train or bus which was not thick with smoke, and even government officials in the region said they had never heard of the new regulation.
Regular cast member Ste Hay, played by Kieron Richardson, is about to test TV boundaries
- 1 Lee Evans announces retirement from comedy on The Jonathan Ross Show
- 2 Pirelli calendar 2015: The problem with 'plus-size' models like Candice Huffine
- 3 These grandmas smoking weed for the first time are wonderful
- 4 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
Jeff Fletcher dead: Britpop guitarist is decapitated by lorry in horrific traffic accident
These grandmas smoking weed for the first time are wonderful
Jimmy Ruffin dead: Motown legend, who wrote 'What Becomes of the Brokenhearted', dies aged 78
New York snowstorm: Five dead and state of emergency declared as 'wall of snow' buries Buffalo
Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
G20 summit: Enter Putin. Accompanied by four warships. To the sound of mockery
'Muslims pre-date Columbus in discovering America,' says Turkish president Erdogan
David Cameron 'compares Vladimir Putin’s Russia to Nazi Germany' ahead of tense meeting
Former Tory PM Sir John Major says 'we would not have an NHS without migrants'
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
G20 summit: David Cameron warns Vladimir Putin that Russia's relationship with the West is at a 'fork in the road' over Ukraine
Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Argyll Scott is recruiting for a Permane...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: COMMERCIAL PROPERTY SOLI...
Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Due to further expansion, a leading inte...
£27000 - £32000 per annum + training: Langley James : Senior Technician; Promo...