Background: Tobacco control in China, the world's largest producer and consumer of tobacco, began in the 1980s with the first national prevalence survey and a conference on tobacco held in Tianjin. Since then, there have been dozens of research papers, partial restrictions on smoking and tobacco advertising, public education campaigns, and the ratification of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, but progress has been slow. The state-owned tobacco industry remains a major obstacle to tobacco control.
Recent developments: In the last few years, tobacco control efforts have accelerated beyond expectations. The triggering event was the publication on tobacco by the Chinese Central Party School, the ideological think tank of the Communist Party, followed by a spate of activity: directives to government officials; regulations issued by the Ministry of Education, the People's Liberation Army and the Healthy City Standards; tobacco clauses in national advertising and philanthropy laws; the creation of a Smoke-free Beijing; an increase in tobacco taxation; and a national smoke-free law currently in draft.
Areas timely for policy research and action: There is a crucial need for China to build upon these recent developments, in accepting the economic research evidence of the debit of tobacco to the economy; in implementing robust, comprehensive legislation; in increasing cigarette price through taxation and, most challenging of all, to tackle the power and influence of the state tobacco monopoly over tobacco control.
Keywords: China; China central party school; tobacco control; tobacco control action in China.
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