Officials should set anti-smoking example: report

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-12-3 18:25:45

The anti-smoking advocacy group ThinkTank has urged Chinese government officials to take the lead to curb smoking in the world's largest cigarette market.

Officials should not consume tobacco products purchased with government funds or accept any tobacco gifts, and they should refrain from smoking in public, according to ThinkTank's annual report released on Tuesday.

The report also suggested that officials should not attend ceremonies or other activities related to tobacco advertising, a practice which is common in Chinese provinces and cities where the tobacco industry is a major source of tax revenue.

Wang Ke'an, director of ThinkTank, said officials represent the image of the government, and a good example set by government officials could help with tobacco control in China.

"If a senior official refrains from smoking in a conference room, his subordinates would probably prefer not to light up a cigarette," he said.

The report also called on China's officials to make their government buildings smoking-free to set a good example.

"You can still see smokers in washrooms or on stairways in many government buildings, despite the no-smoking signs there," said Jiang Yuan, deputy director of the Tobacco Control Office of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a country where luxury cigarettes have become a common currency for bribery, ThinkTank's latest anti-smoking appeals have proven very pertinent.

At least two officials in east China's Jiangsu Province have been fired and then punished for corruption in past years after pictures of them smoking luxury cigarettes appeared on the internet.

In the most notorious case, Zhou Jiugeng, an official with the district government in Nanjing City, was sentenced to 11 years in jail after his high-end cigarettes, priced at around 150 yuan (24.5 US dollars) per pack, revealed his luxurious lifestyle.

"More needs to be done to prevent government officials from accepting luxury cigarettes as bribes," said Xu Guihua, deputy director of the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control.

"More supervision, stricter punishment, or putting gruesome picture warnings on tobacco products to show the suffering caused by tobacco use -- anything that will deter the country's government officials from taking cigarette bribes, or embarrassing the bribe-givers," she added.

China is the world's largest cigarette producer and consumer. The number of smokers in the country exceeds 300 million, with at least 740 million non-smokers regularly exposed to secondhand smoke.

In 2003, China signed the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and it became effective in January 2006. The FCTC requires a reduction in tobacco supply as well as consumption.

"One decade after its endorsement of the FCTC, China's performance is lagging far behind," the Tuesday report said.

Last December, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the former Ministry of Health and six other government departments released the China Tobacco Control Program (2012-2015) to reduce tobacco use and cultivation. It is the first state-level initiative on tobacco control.

"Public health is the very fundamental basis for realizing the 'Chinese dream' of the whole nation, and tobacco control is an important campaign to improve public health," said ThinkTank's director Wang.

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