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WHO stronger action is needed to effectively tackle the tobacco epidemic in many countries. This is true of China. INCLUDING HONG KONG

WHO Representative Office in China

Stronger bans on tobacco marketing needed to save lives – new WHO report on the tobacco epidemic

Beijing, 15 July 2013 – The WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic 2013 released last week highlights the need for stronger tobacco control policies including strengthened bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship to reduce tobacco use and save lives, including in China.

“This new WHO report highlights progress that is being made globally to reduce death and disease caused by tobacco consumption. Around the world, the population covered by at least one key tobacco control measure doubled from 1 billion to 2.3 billion in the last five years,” said Dr Michael O’Leary, WHO Representative in China.

“However, the report also shows that stronger action is needed to effectively tackle the tobacco epidemic in many countries. This is true of China.

“This is especially the case if China is to achieve the targets it has set for itself to reduce rates of tobacco smoking, from the current level of 28.1% to below 25% by 2015,” Dr O’Leary said.

The specific focus of this year’s report is bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Comprehensive bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship are one of the most powerful measures available to governments to reduce tobacco use.

Globally, there has been a steady increase in the number of countries that have established bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, but only 24 countries – covering 10% of the world’s population – have a complete ban in place.

China is among a group of 103 countries which are close to having a complete ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, but where existing laws require strengthening in order to ban all forms of tobacco marketing and be considered by WHO as having the highest level of implementation.

The Advertising Law in China currently bans advertising of tobacco products in the mass media (including radio, movies, TV, newspapers and magazines), but outdoor advertising, point of sale promotions, internet advertising, and tobacco sponsorship of events are allowed. ‘New media’ including micro-blogs are also beyond the scope of the existing Advertising Law.

“This new report highlights the urgency of strengthening bans on tobacco marketing in China “Dr O’Leary said.

“Around the world, the tobacco industry spares no expense on marketing its products. Experience from other countries is that the tobacco industry’s marketing tactics target young people, who are especially vulnerable to tobacco advertising and promotions.”

“We must act now to protect the current generation of Chinese young people from the hazards of tobacco use. “

“There is also an urgent need to protect Chinese women and girls – among whom the current rate of tobacco smoking is very low – from tobacco company marketing tactics, before they are lured into a lifetime of tobacco addiction.”

While enacting a complete ban on tobacco marketing is one of the most cost-effective tobacco control measures, the new WHO report shows that comprehensive tobacco control policies are required to achieve significant and sustained reductions in tobacco smoking rates.

In 2008, WHO identified six evidence-based tobacco control measures that are the most effective in reducing tobacco use. Known as “MPOWER”, these measures correspond to one or more of the demand reduction provisions included in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC):

  • Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies
  • Protect people from tobacco smoke
  • Offer help to quit tobacco use
  • Warn people about the dangers of tobacco
  • Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and
  • Raise taxes on tobacco.

This year’s report is the fourth in the series of WHO reports on the status of the MPOWER measures.

China ratified the WHO FCTC in 2005.

Currently, there are approximately 300 million smokers in China: over one quarter (28%) of the population smokes, including 53% of men and just over 2% of women. More than half (53%) of smokers aged 20-34 years started smoking daily before the age of 20. An estimated 1 million people die each year from tobacco-related illness – almost two Chinese adults die from a tobacco related illness each minute of every hour of every day.

The WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic 2013 was released in Panama City, Panama on 10 July 2013.

For more information, please contact

Helen Yu
Communications Officer, WHO in China
Tel: +86 10 65327191

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