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Lawmakers Debate Tough Curbs on Tobacco Advertising

Chinese lawmakers on Tuesday debated tobacco advertising while they reviewed an amendment to the 1984 Advertising Law.

At the ongoing bi-monthly legislative session, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) is deliberating the Advertising Law bill, which would mean far fewer tobacco ads.

The new draft, tabled for its third reading, forbids tobacco advertisements from transmission via mass media and in public places.

An earlier revision that got a second reading in December prohibited all forms of tobacco advertising except for those posted and displayed in tobacco shops and business-to-business advertising by tobacco producers to tobacco product sellers.

It had listed mass media and public venues where tobacco ads would be banned.

Many lawmakers think the latest amendment as a step forward.

Peng Sen, who wants a full ban on all tobacco ads, said the draft is closer to the comprehensive ban required by the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

China became one of the signatories in 2003.

“I’m still dissatisfied by the use of ‘mass media’ in the article.”

There was heated discussion on ambiguities in the wording of the amendment.

“Tobacco ads are banned in public venues, but what is the definition of a public venue? Does it include tobacco shops?” said Lyu Zushan.

The logic was shared by other lawmakers.

Li Lianning said that a ban in tobacco shops would conflict with consumers’ right to acquire information about products.

“Tobacco shops should be excluded from the ban,” he said.

As the world’s largest tobacco producer and consumer, China faces a smoking-related health crisis, with more than 300 million smokers and another 740 million people exposed to second-hand smoking.

Some lawmakers claim tobacco is still a major source of income for farmers and excessively harsh restrictions would harm their interests.

Tang Shili, deputy director of the people’s congress standing committee in Guizhou, said 70 percent of total tobacco production and 60 percent of the cigarette manufacturing are based in China’s underdeveloped and border areas.

“Harsh curbs on tobacco advertising are well intentioned, but unrealistic,” Tang said.

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