Tobacco Control in China

Banning tobacco advertising and promotion is an important part of the effort to curb the tobacco epidemic. Comprehensive advertising bans reduce tobacco consumption whereas partial bans have little or no effect. Article 13 of the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) states that each Party to the Convention shall “undertake a comprehensive ban or, restrict tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship on radio, television, print media and, as appropriate, other media, such as the internet”. Some countries have enacted comprehensive advertising bans and positive impacts have been reported. The aim of this study was to compare smokers’ awareness of tobacco advertising and promotion in China, with levels in Thailand and Australia (countries with strong policies), and with the United States (which has weak policies). This provides an indication of China’s relative progress towards eliminating this activity.

In China, it is estimated that over 350 million people smoke. Smoking kills some
one million Chinese each year with economic costs in 2000 estimated at five billion
US dollars. The Chinese government has made some efforts to implement laws
and regulations to restrict tobacco advertising since the 1990s. The 1991 Tobacco
Products Monopoly Law  and the 1994 Advertisement Law
ban direct tobacco advertisements on radio, Television, newspapers and periodicals.
The 1995 Tobacco Advertisement Management Regulations not only prohibit direct
and disguised forms of advertisements on the above media, but also
restrict competitions and programs connected with tobacco companies or their
products brands. However, there are gaps. There are no clear restrictions
on outdoor and Internet tobacco advertisements, and also little restrictions on tobacco
company sponsorships. As a result, a range of marketing activities continue.
China ratified the WHO FCTC in October 2005, promising to ban all tobacco
advertising by January 2011. Like China, both Thailand and Australia have ratified
the FCTC. The US has yet to ratify the FCTC.
In Thailand substantial tobacco control efforts have been made over the years,
including laws and regulations designed to limit access to tobacco products, placing
bans on displaying cigarettes and on various advertising; and enhancing pictorial
health warnings on cigarette packets. The Tobacco Products Control Act
1992 comprehensively banned advertising and promotion, and made most forms of
promotional activities illegal. These restrictions on tobacco marketing have been
reasonably well enforced, despite a reported increase in point-of-sale advertising and
indirect marketing since 1997.
Australia has a well-known record on tobacco control, although smoking prevalence
is still high among its Aborigines.  Considerable progress in banning
advertising has been achieved since federal legislation banning direct cigarette
advertising on television and radio came into effect with the Australian Broadcasting
and Television Act Amendment ACT 1976. Advertising was banned in print media in
1993 and outdoors in 1996. Several states have banned point-of-sale advertising and
have considerably limited the number of packs permitted to be displayed.
Sponsorships of sport and arts were also banned by 1996,but exemptions were

allowed until 2006 for internationally significant events, most notably F1 Grand Prix
motor racing.
The US has fewer restrictions compared to Thailand and Australia. In response to the
first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, Congress enacted the
Cigarette Labelling and Advertising Act in 1965, which required health warnings on
all cigarette packages. The 1969 Federal Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act banned
advertising of tobacco from television and radio. The 1998 Tobacco Master
Settlement Agreement has restricted marketing to some extent. However, the
restrictions were not comprehensive, with many marketing channels open. As a result,
the tobacco industry has taken advantage of this and expanded their marketing in
areas where it is allowed. In 1999 the overall tobacco advertising expenditures in the
US was $8.24 billion, an increase of 22.3% compared with 1998; spending in
newspapers increased by 73%, magazines by 34.2%, and direct mail by 63.8%.
According to the Federal Trade Commission the total cigarette advertising and
promotional expenditures remained as high as $14.15 billion in 2004 and $13.11
billion in 2005.

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