WHO welcomes introduction of new tobacco advertising changes in China

Reducing the glitz and glamour of smoking to lower tobacco-related deaths

BEIJING, 31 August 2015 – Advertising of tobacco products is akin to marketing death and disease. That is why new restrictions on tobacco advertising in China, which come into effect from 1 September are to be warmly welcomed, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today.

“WHO strongly supports the introduction of new restrictions on tobacco advertising contained in China’s revised Advertising Law which take effect this week,” said Dr Bernhard Schwartländer, WHO Representative in China.

“Banning all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship is one of the most cost-effective measures Governments can take to protect the public from the harms of addiction to tobacco use,” Dr Schwartländer said.

From 1 September, it will be prohibited to advertise tobacco products in mass media, public places, on public transport, and outdoors in China. Distribution of any form of tobacco advertising to minors will also be prohibited. Previously, billboard advertising and advertising in some public places was allowed.

“We particularly welcome the revised law’s emphasis on protecting young people from tobacco advertising. This is crucially important: most smokers start up when they are young, and young people are especially susceptible to tobacco marketing. Stopping young people from starting smoking when they are young is almost like a vaccine – it is protecting them for life,” said Dr Schwartländer.

“The implementation of China’s new restrictions on tobacco advertising is another important step forward for China in tackling high rates of tobacco use, and in China meeting its obligations under the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC),” Dr Schwartländer added.

The WHO FCTC calls for a comprehensive ban on all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. The Guidelines to the WHO FCTC – adopted by all Parties including China – state that the comprehensive ban should apply to ‘all forms of commercial communication or action … with the aim, effect, or likely effect of promoting a tobacco product or tobacco use either directly or indirectly’. 

“Having this new law on the books is a terrific step forward. WHO now looks forward to seeing it comprehensively enforced – so that all forms of tobacco advertising, including in shops and at other tobacco retail points of sale – are banned,” Dr Schwartländer said.

Advertising at retail points of sale is used by the tobacco industry to target young people. According to survey data from China Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), 4 per cent of Chinese adults say they noticed tobacco advertisements in stores in the previous 30 days. When asked the same question, more than 40 per cent of teenagers age 13 to 15 said they had noticed tobacco advertising at retail points of sale – a tenfold difference.

“Enforcing a comprehensive ban on all forms of tobacco advertising – including in all public places – has the potential to save millions of lives. WHO will be closely monitoring the enforcement effort to ensure that all forms of tobacco advertising are consigned to the dustbin of history, where they belong,” Dr Schwartländer concluded.

China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of tobacco products. There are more than 300 million smokers in the country – with 28.1% of adults, and more than half of all adult men, regular smokers. Among 13-15 year olds, 11.2% of boys smoke. More than 1 million people die from tobacco-related illness every year – around 3000 people every day. In addition, over 700 million people are routinely exposed to second-hand smoke, which kills approximately 100,000 people every year.

Read more: http://www.wpro.who.int/china/mediacentre/releases/2015/20150831/en/