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Ban on tobacco sponsorships coming to legislature by 2011

No Thanks, Big Tobacco

First published: February 24, 2010

Source: China Daily

No-smoking advocates continue to put pressure on legislators

Anti-smoking advocates including 17 senior legislators and political consultants are urging that laws be passed to ban donations or sponsorships from tobacco companies for Chinese events, such as expos, festivals and athletic events. The measure is expected to be enacted by the top legislature within a year.

“The message will be conveyed to the coming two sessions to fuel the anti-smoking efforts,” said Wu Yiqun, deputy director of the Thinktank Research Center for Health Development, a Beijing-based nongovernmental organization, yesterday.

The two sessions are the annual plenary meeting of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which usually fall in early March. They are considered China’s most important annual political events.

Wu made the remarks at an anti-smoking seminar attended by 17 NPC deputies and CPPCC members yesterday in Beijing.

Last July, under pressure from anti-smoking advocacy groups including Thinktank, the 2010 Shanghai World Expo organizers turned down a 200 million yuan ($29 million) donation from a local tobacco company to observe the promise of a “healthy and smoke-free Expo”.

Last October, organizers of China’s National Games returned all sponsorship money from nine tobacco companies, also due to public pressure mainly from the tobacco control office of China’s Center for Disease Control (CDC).

“These were indeed victories for the anti-smoking camp, led mainly by social forces,” Wu said.

“However, public pressure is definitely not the best way (to stop the tobacco donations). That should be clearly defined under the framework of the charity law of China,” she noted, adding that the two sessions will be a good opportunity to rally support from decision-making groups and deliver the message.

The country’s law on donations, which was issued in the 1990s, will be the foundation for the coming charity law. It currently does not address anything about the tobacco industry.

In the past, highly marketed and hyped donations and sponsorships from tobacco companies, all State-owned in China, were rampant, Wu said.

“More than 100 Hope Project schools in underprivileged western parts of China still sport the names of tobacco companies that donated money to them, which is obviously not good for the healthy development of children,” she said.

Wang Zhenyao, department director of social welfare and promotion of charities under the Ministry of Civil Affairs, told China Daily that his department has noticed the anti-smoking public voice and has appreciated the constant efforts by non-governmental anti-smoking advocates.

“Given that the law-making process is open to the public, these (anti-smoking measures) are likely to be included in the coming law,” he said.

The new laws would also be in line with the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which specifies that member countries, including China, are obliged to undertake a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship at both domestic and international levels, said Jiang Yuan, deputy director of CDC’s tobacco control office.

In 2003, China signed the FCTC, promising to ban all types of tobacco advertising and promotion by 2011.

China now has 350 million smokers, official statistics show. One million die of smoking-related diseases each year.

Written by Shan Juan

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