Peking counts profits from over a trillion cigarettes

The Chinese government owns and runs the biggest cigarette producer in the world, a situation which creates some interesting moments with Peking this week hosting the 10th World Conference on Tobacco or Health, and government ministers addressing delegates from around the world about China's belated efforts to halt a rising epidemic of tobacco- related deaths.

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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
news
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Sport
sport
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

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all