Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

World Expo hands back sponsorship from tobacco firm

Will Clem in Shanghai, SCMP

The Shanghai World Expo 2010 has handed back 200 million yuan (HK$227 million) in sponsorship funds from a tobacco company, state media reports.

If confirmed, the move would be a major coup for anti-smoking activists on the mainland, who have been pressuring authorities to live up to their commitments to international health treaties.

The Southern Metropolis News reported yesterday that the Expo organising committee had decided to return the Shanghai Tobacco Group’s contribution to the China national pavilion to promote a “healthy World Expo”.

The paper quoted anonymous sources in the Expo bureau as saying the decision had been reached in a document ruling out gifts from firms linked to the tobacco industry.

When the Shanghai Tobacco Group made the donation in May, it was the largest single contribution the national pavilion had received since fund-raising began in 2007.

No one at the Expo organising bureau could be reached for comment, and no announcement that the sponsorship money had been returned was on the fair’s website.

However, the company is no longer listed among the fair’s 13 global partners, 12 senior partners or 14 project sponsors on either the Chinese or English versions of the site.

Campaigners submitted a petition to the Expo organisers arguing that the sponsorship was in breach of the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the South China Morning Post reported last week.

China ratified the convention in 2005. The 20 signatories included medical experts, prominent anti-smoking activists and health officials.

Jiang Yuan , a tobacco- control official at the Ministry of Health, said she had not heard confirmation that the campaign was successful, but welcomed the news.

“This would be a huge step forward,” she said.

“The Shanghai government has the chance to set a positive example to the rest of the country, to show that a change in attitude is needed.

“This is not just about the Shanghai World Expo. There are many other public events that have received money from tobacco companies, and I am certain the Shanghai government’s decision will have an impact.”

She said she believed that the initial decision by organisers to accept the money had been made “without fully understanding the issues and the implications”.

“The Expo is an international event, and so it should keep with international standards,” she said. “After this, there will be more room for understanding.”

With 350 million smokers, the mainland is the largest tobacco market, accounting for one-third of the world’s smokers.

About a million mainlanders die each year from smoking-related illnesses, Ministry of Health figures show.

The anti-smoking lobby is still in its relative infancy, but has begun making inroads – despite state-run cigarette manufacturers’ political influence.

The mainland has already banned direct tobacco advertising and plans to implement a total ban on promotions in 2011.

Comments are closed.