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Tobacco research out of reward application

(Xinhua)

14:47, May 07, 2012

A man smokes in Xiamen, South China's Fujian province in this May 31, 2007 file photo. [Photo/Asianewsphoto]

BEIJING - A Chinese tobacco research program has been left aside in an application for a top science award in the country, following extensive controversy over its studies in manufacturing low-tar, less-harm cigarettes.

China Tobacco (China National Tobacco Corporation), which is affiliated to the State Tobacco Monopoly, had applied to have its research into supposedly less harmful cigarettes included on a list of initiatives up for the 2012 National Award for Science and Technology.

The application was open to appeals from March 23 to May 2.

During the past 40 days, however, Chinese health officials, scientists, non-governmental organizations, general public and the World Health Organization representative in China have voiced strong opposition to the application.

Health experts say China Tobacco's research -- which focuses on "Chinese-style" cigarettes -- misleads the public by claiming that the adding of Chinese herbs into cigarettes reduces their harm.

At least 33 letters of objection have been sent to the Ministry of Science and Technology, the organizer of the science reward.

The State Tobacco Monopoly then submitted an application to the ministry for quitting the reward application under the pressure.

Officials with the State Tobacco Monopoly have declined to comment, while a statement issued by the Ministry of Science and Technology on Friday only said the research program has met with opposition and the situation is "very complicated."

Meanwhile, officials with the Ministry of Health have told reporters that "the current result was the fruit of the joint efforts of everybody."

China has more than 300 million smokers, about 1.2 million people die from tobacco-related diseases every year in the country, and another 740 million are exposed to second-hand smoke, health experts say.

They add that China faces a particularly tough battle to prevent the interference in anti-smoking work of China Tobacco, with its lucrative tax contributions and status as a government agency.


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