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National games to return tobacco sponsorship money

Agence France-Presse in Beijing, SCMP

Organisers of China’s national games have pledged to return 20 million yuan (HK$22.75) in sponsorship fees from tobacco companies after an official complaint, state press said on Thursday.

The pledge came after the tobacco control office of China’s Centre for Disease Control issued an open letter saying the fees violated regulations on accepting sponsorship money from tobacco companies, the Beijing Times said.

As a member of the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), China is committed to a ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship at domestic and international events, it said.

China’s four-yearly national games, the country’s own mini-Olympics, formally open on Friday in Jinan city, in eastern Shandong province.

The 20 million yuan in sponsorship revenue had been pledged by nine tobacco companies linked to the state-run Shandong Tobacco Wholesale Company, the report said.

Besides returning the money, games organisers have also pledged not to accept any sponsorships from tobacco companies in future, it added.

Officials with the organising committee of the national games refused to comment on the issue when contacted by reporters.

China, the world’s largest tobacco producer and consumer, signed the FCTC in 2003, committing itself to banning all tobacco advertising nationwide by 2011, according to the WHO.

China has the world’s largest population of smokers, with about 350 million people taking up the habit, and the nation consumes up to one-third of the tobacco products sold annually worldwide, state media have reported.

More than one million mainlanders die of tobacco-related diseases every year and that figure is expected to double within the next 20 years, according to health experts.

In July, organisers of the next year World Expo in Shanghai were forced to turn down a 200-million-yuan (US$29 million) sponsorship deal from a tobacco company following similar complaints that it was violating the FCTC.

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