tocacco plant Native American Tobaccoo flower, leaves, and buds

tocacco Tobacco is an annual or bi-annual growing 1-3 meters tall with large sticky leaves that contain nicotine. Native to the Americas, tobacco has a long history of use as a shamanic inebriant and stimulant. It is extremely popular and well-known for its addictive potential.

tocacco nicotina Nicotiana tabacum

tocacco Nicotiana rustica leaves. Nicotiana rustica leaves have a nicotine content as high as 9%, whereas Nicotiana tabacum (common tobacco) leaves contain about 1 to 3%

tocacco cigar A cigar is a tightly rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco which is ignited so that its smoke may be drawn into the mouth. Cigar tobacco is grown in significant quantities in Brazil, Cameroon, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Sumatra, Philippines, and the Eastern United States.

tocacco Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the fresh leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as an organic pesticide, and in the form of nicotine tartrate it is used in some medicines. In consumption it may be in the form of cigarettes smoking, snuffing, chewing, dipping tobacco, or snus.

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AS part of the obligations under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the Ministry of Health issued a press smoking and eatingrelease recently, announcing that starting from 2011, smoking in all public places will be banned.

While I hail the Ministry’s courage and determination to take on the tobacco industry, the thought of Don Quixote taking on the windmill can’t help crossing my mind.

Having had my own share of the windmill numerous times in restaurants, schools, and hospitals in Shanghai and Beijing, I finally settled with myself that smoking in public is just one of those hundreds things with what we call Chinese characteristics that we had better get accustomed to.

The tobacco industry is powerful, intransigent, and deep-pocketed all around the world, and China is no exception. In the US, tobacco companies had never lost a case until 1996, when the political tide started to turn.

Today the anti-smoking cause is enjoying wide public support in the US as exemplified in last June’s Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act signed by President Barack Obama into law. In China on the other hand, the tobacco industry is booming. Total production of cigarettes exceeds that of US, Russia, the European Union, India, Brazil, and Japan - combined, that is.

Revenue grew by 13 percent last year, and this year it is likely to pass the half trillion yuan (US$146.4 billion) mark.

How the tobacco industry shrugs off the Ministry of Health’s new anti-smoking initiative can be found in a statement, at a recent Chinese Peoples’ Political Consultative Conference meeting, by Mr Zhang Zhengbao, the deputy bureau chief of China’s Tobacco Bureau, the industry’s highest regulatory body.

When responding to the anti-smoking issue, he bluntly said that too much effort on banning smoking is likely to have an adverse impact on social stability.

And the Tobacco Bureau is indeed thinking big. Within days of the Ministry of Health’s press release, the Bureau issued its own press release about a blueprint of the industry’s growth in the next five years. In it, it says that China needs to establish 12 leading cigarette brands with a combined revenue exceeding 700 billion yuan.

The case of smoking bans in public does not need to be argued. The health risks of second-hand smoke are a matter of scientific consensus, and these risks manifest in the same way as on the smokers themselves. For example, a 2004 study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization concluded that nonsmokers are exposed to the same carcinogens as active smokers.

In order for the enforcement of smoking bans to have teeth, the effort has to come from the top. The campaign needs to start from the State Council, or better still, be written into law by the National People’s Congress.

I have two concrete suggestions that I think might be effective:

First, society needs to foster a public opinion that smoking in public is unethical, illegal and uncivilized. Ads against smoking need to be aired on TV all over the country for a long period of time.

Second, the best strategy to ban smoking in restaurants is to motivate restaurant owners.

For every case that the restaurant owner reports that a patron refuses to stop smoking on warning, the owner gets 90 percent of the fine levied on the patron, and this fine has to be huge. And for every case reported that the restaurant owner fails to enforce the ban, he gets to pay 90 times the fine levied on the patron, and this fine has to be huge.

Granted, ad campaign on TV needs a lot of money. Fines collected can be put into a national anti-smoking foundation to fund these ads. To quote a sentence with a slight twist in a R.J. Reynolds’ (a leading US tobacco company) about tobacco litigation, the way to win public opinion, to paraphrase General George Patton, is not by spending all of tax payers’ money, but by making the other son of a bitch spend all of his.

By John Gong
Shanghaidaily, 19 Mai, 2010

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