Cigarette production in China has almost doubled since the nation signed a landmark international agreement to curb tobacco, meaning that the nation is only paying lip service to tobacco control legislation, according to a new report.
The report, Tobacco Control in China from A Civil Society Perspective 2013, compiled and released by the Beijing-based Thinktank Research Center for Health Development, found that about 2.175 trillion cigarettes were produced in the 12 months to October.
In 2002, before China signed the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2003, cigarette production was 1.75 trillion, but it rose to 2.58 trillion annually by 2012.
Wang Ke'an, director of the research center, told the Global Times that while the government signed the convention and vowed to control tobacco, the nation has since fallen far behind many other signatory members.
In a 2012 WHO assessment report, China was only awarded two of a possible 16 points for its smoking ban in public places, namely schools and hospitals, while its curb on tobacco advertising won no credits.
The tobacco industry in China is a large contributor to fiscal revenue.
In 2012, the tobacco industry paid a total of 864.9 billion yuan ($141.9 billion) in taxes and handed 716.7 billion yuan to the State treasury. Eight percent of the national tax income was generated by the industry, people.com.cn reported in June, 2012.
Some local governments even encourage residents to develop the tobacco industry as a way to contribute to the local economy. In Enshi, Hubei Province, local government treats the tobacco industry, which has generated 5.1 billion yuan for tobacco growers, as a mainstay of supporting the poor.
While many cities or provinces have regulations to ban smoking in public places, often the laws are not enforced. In May, 2011, a regulation was published by the Ministry of Health to ban smoking in all indoor enclosed public spaces, including bars and restaurants, Hubei Daily reported.
Wang said that smokers should be punished, but also educated on the hazards of smoking.
A survey by Chinese health ministry in August which looked at hotels and restaurants in four regions of China, found that only 6.1 percent had designated smoking areas and only 1.4 had anti-smoking signs.
Wang said that most tobacco packets still only have a small health warning on them, instead of covering at least a third of the pack, as stipulated by the WHO convention.
"These signs are an essential part of tobacco control, which would work with the legal efforts to gradually change the smoking habit," Wang said, adding that civil servants should set a good example to society in banning smoking.
However, Suo Chao, a spokesperson of the Chinese Association of Tobacco Control, told the Global Times that China has made efforts to enforce anti-smoking regulations.
"Several provinces have expanded their bans in more public places and multiple hospitals have set up smoking cessation clinics to help smokers," Suo noted.