Policy on cigarette packaging is specifically entrusted to the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration (STMA) by the “Law of the People’s Republic of China on Tobacco Monopoly.” In 2016, issued the “Rules on Cigarette Package Labeling in the Jurisdiction of the People’s Republic of China.” The interference of the tobacco industry led to the stalling of the passage of the National Smoke-Free law. There are no pictorial warnings; only minor changes to the text warning such as the font size and color of the text warnings.
In 2014, representatives from STMA and the China National Tobacco Corporation (CNTC) joined the Sixth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in Moscow, Russia. At COP8 tobacco representatives participated in the naming of the group members in China’s delegation.
The tobacco industry has a long history of conducting CSR activities in China. On the STMA website, “Public Welfare” appears as a special section. It can be concluded that the industry is very active in CSR in poverty alleviation, environmental protection, education (student aid) and disaster relief.
In 2019, the tobacco industry’s CRS activities still focused on poverty alleviation, educational aid and environmental protection. New evidence on “civilized smoking” has been decreased compared to the previous years, which mainly happened in Yunnan, Gansu and Jiangxi provinces. There is also considerable evidence that the tobacco industry is taking the lead to prohibit selling e-cigarettes to minors.
There is no national-level smoke-free law and health warnings on tobacco packs remain text-only warnings.
In 2017, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Finance jointly issued the “2017 Key Policies on Strengthening Farmers and Benefiting Agriculture” which enabled the STMA and CNTC to implement its own subsidy policies targeting local farmers and tobacco planting, agricultural machinery purchases, technical training and tobacco loans. The Office of the STMA implemented the Special Subsidy Policy for Tobacco Leaf Reduction Areas. This subsidy policy is granted as a poverty alleviation subsidy. It is distributed by the Department of Civil Affairs, directly to tobacco farmers.
National-level leaders in the past have shown support for the development of the Chinese tobacco industry and have visited various Chinese tobacco companies to inspect the situation.
One of the main obligations for STMA and CNTC is to conduct raids on smuggling and counterfeit cigarettes, as well as supervise sales to minors. To fulfil such duties, STMA needs to collaborate with other government departments, especially customs, as well as Ministry of Public Security and industrial and commercial administration.
Several MOUs have been signed that bring the tobacco industry to work with various government departments.
The draft of the “Regulations on Smoking Control in Public Places” solicited opinions from stakeholders including the tobacco industry, resulting in excessive changes in the content of the final draft in 2016, which did not meet the requirements of the FCTC. The specific details of these requests for comments were not publicized, and no tobacco control experts were invited to attend any discussion meetings.
STMA is a governmental department with the same team as CNTC. The tobacco industry’s “familial corruption” is generally recognized by the public. Many bureaucratic public officials will not be opposed to their families and relatives working in the tobacco industry as it provides a great source of stability career-wise.
In 2016, the anti-corruption campaign by the central government (Central Inspection Team) was conducted within the tobacco industry, which resulted in a series of internal educations, movements and disciplinary actions that are alleged to reduce the corruption.
It can be concluded that conflicts of interest between the tobacco system and other government departments still commonly exist in China.
There is no known program to increase awareness of FCTC Article 5.3 among government departments.
From the perspective of anti-corruption, there are provisions prohibiting the acceptance of funds or gifts, and it is mainly conducted within the tobacco system (both the government and the companies).
In China, the Tobacco Monopoly Law provides a legal basis for the tobacco industry to directly intervene in tobacco control policy formulation. Further, the government directly runs the tobacco industry, which results in endogenous “conflicts of interest,” coupled with the characteristics of the high-profit tobacco industry, making it extraordinarily difficult for China to implement Article 5.3 of the FCTC.
- Strengthen cooperation with organizations to explore research and advocacy perspectives that are more in line with the current political and economic environment to reduce tobacco industry intervention.
- Consider further research on the impact of the CNTC’s CSR activities. At the first sight, many of them are guided by national policies (such as poverty alleviation) rather than commercial motivations. The following effects of such activities can be more indirect and permanent, often not entirely the same with those of the Western tobacco giants.
- The amount of evidence on the construction of a “civilized smoking environment” has decreased in 2019. However, civilized smoking is still one of the tobacco industry’s policy priorities. It is recommended to continue to monitor relevant progress, and to expose representative cases when necessary.
- Continually pay close attention to the development of the domestic e-cigarette market, and give timely and full exposure to the violations.
- Increase the supervision of China Tobacco International (HK), focusing on its operations globally, especially the establishment of overseas sales networks for new products as well as the interaction and cooperation between China Tobacco International, local governments and other transnational tobacco companies.
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