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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Pack of tobacco troubles

By Huang Jingjing (Global Times)

09:08, January 04, 2012

China has yet to fulfill its commitment in effectively curbing smoking six years after the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) went into effect in the country.

To better raise people's awareness on the harm of smoking, experts advocated in a tobacco control discussion meeting held last Tuesday in Beijing, that as many other countries and regions do, graphic warning pictorials should be put on cigarette packs. But due to a handicapped management structure, their target is far from being realized.

Chinese cigarette packs feature different objects, scenic locations, and symbolic architecture, even the Giant panda, to instill a sense of connection with the brand. Some people believe that these designs are the epitome of Chinese culture, while tobacco control activists say they should have been removed long ago.

Commitment issues

The World Health Organization's (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) enter into force in China on January 9, 2006. As one of 172 parties of the convention, China has agreed to adopt and implement effective measures to curb smoking.

According to the Convention, each Party shall, within a period of three years after beginning enforcement, have no less than 30 percent of cigarette packaging covered with health warnings. Tobacco makers must not use terms such as "low tar," "light," and "ultra-light," as they create the false impression cigarettes are less harmful.

"However, six years have passed and nearly nothing has changed in the mainland. Terms like 'light' are commonly used," Wu Yiqun, deputy director of Thinktank Research Center for Health Development, a local NGO in Beijing, told the Global Times.

Over 40 countries and regions, including Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao, have required pictorial health warnings on cigarettes packs, according to Wu.

"Visible warning pictures can directly display the harms of smoking, especially for those less educated and teenagers. It is also one of the most effective and cheap methods of tobacco control," Wu said.

"Effective warning labels increase smokers' awareness of health risks, and increase the likelihood that smokers will think about cessation and reduce tobacco consumption," the WHO spelled out in its 2011 Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic in July.

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