Anti-Tobacco Campaign Heats Up in China Despite Conflict of Interest Among Administrators

China is on a severe tobacco crackdown to show that they are taking World No Tobacco Day seriously. Industry figures show that China produced 2.38 trillion cigarettes in 2010, rising a staggering 40% over the past decade. The tobacco industry currently generates about 7% of the government’s annual revenue. However last year, the cost incurred by people smoking outweighed the tobacco profits and jobs created by $9.5 billion.

Tobacco kills 1.2 million Chinese every year according to official figures. China has more than 300 million smokers with second-hand smoke affecting about 740 million people, according to the 2011 China Tobacco Control Report released by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) Thursday in Beijing.

China has ratified the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). But the treaty’s implementation is in the hands of a multi-agency work group that includes the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration, the regulatory body that shares the same management staff with China National Tobacco Corporation. Calls to kick tobacco industry representatives out of the multi-agency work group in charge of implementing the WHO treaty have been mounting in the health sector for some time. A survey conducted by the China CDC shows less than 25% of the population have a thorough knowledge of the harm posed by smoking and second-hand smoke. Voluntary smoking controls have proved ineffective, with laws and regulations being the only effective way of curbing the habit. Without a reduction in consumption of tobacco in China, global tobacco control cannot make big strides.

The government for its part is making strides in curbing tobacco use. In February, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) ordered film and TV studios to restrict smoking scenes and to ban shots showing tobacco brands or minors in scenes while others are smoking. In March, a revised regulation on health management in public places issued by the Ministry of Health said smoking would be banned in enclosed public locations, which took effect in May this year.

Tobacco awareness therefore, provides an interesting forum for CSR initiatives. This is exactly what RAK Ceramics has cached in on when it included tobacco awareness as part of its CSR. RAK Ceramics is the world’s largest manufacturer of bathware and ceramic tiles. For World Tobacco Awareness Day, they held a seminar to highlight the dangers of smoking.

They have been the recipient of the Middle East Business Leaders Summit & Awards (MEBLSA) 2011 ‘CSR Company of the Year’ award. According to their head of Marketing and Corporate Communications, “As a responsible corporate citizen RAK Ceramics is keen to create maximum awareness about the dangers of tobacco use. We understand that tackling an issue of this magnitude requires sustained efforts, which is why we are committed to undertaking several awareness campaigns.”

Perhaps with a combination of more companies taking on tobacco awareness as their CSR as well as government initiatives, there will be a gradual decline in consumption.

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also