China wants to reduce smoking by 3 percent by 2015. Good luck

You might have heard that 50,000 cigarettes are consumed in China every second. Choose to believe it or don’t, but a ton of people smoke here, to the tune of 28 percent of the population — more than 300 million people. According to World Health Organization, “One of every three cigarettes consumed worldwide is smoked in China,” along with other ridiculous facts such as, “About 3,000 people die every day in China due to smoking.” (On the bright side, China’s not even close to the top in terms of cigarettes per adult.)

Naturally, the government is concerned, and it wants to bring the raw numbers down. Reports Bloomberg:

China plans to cut the number of smokers to 25 percent of the population by 2015 from 28.1 percent in 2010, according to the plan published by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology yesterday, seven years after the country signed the treaty that recommends the graphic warning labels.

Even after signing that treaty, however, cigarette packages here are free from graphic labels. We’re guessing because tobacco companies have said “Hell no” to that suggestion. What’s a government left to do?

The government will “comprehensively” prohibit smoking in public places and ban ads, promotion and sponsorship by tobacco companies, according to the plan. There is no mention of tax rates in the plan.

Funny thing about that: smoking is currently not allowed in restaurants. You want to know how effective restaurants are at enforcing this ban? Try not at all.

Tobacco companies are powerful, because they make lots and lots of money. Money that lines the pockets of politicians and lawmakers. Money that flows in from addicted users and bureaucrats who have learned since the Mao days that the right cigarette gift package can seal deals. Smoking will continue in this country until the culture changes — and that’ll take more than three years.

    One Response to “China wants to reduce smoking by 3 percent by 2015. Good luck”

    1. Marc

      I don’t understand what’s preventing a tax of 1-2 yuan on a pack of cigarettes. This would bring in a significant amount of revenue for the government and be just enough of an economic inconvenience to get some people to reconsider smoking, yet probably not enough to anger people too much.


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