Local experts call for complete China ban on tobacco sponsorship

Cai Wenjun
Experts suggest that China's Charity Law ban all donations from tobacco firms and prohibit the promotion of cigarette and e-cigarette products through charity donation and events.
Cai Wenjun

Local experts are suggesting that China's Charity Law ban all donations from tobacco enterprises and prohibit any organizations or individuals from promoting cigarette and e-cigarette products through charity donation and events.

They also suggest that market supervisors order violators to do rectification and impose a penalty of between 50,000 yuan (US$7,005) and 200,000 yuan.

The process of soliciting public opinion on the draft of an amended version of the Charity Law will be completed this week.

Fudan University's Health Communication Institute released a monitoring report on tobacco sponsorship in China on Tuesday and called for stricter administration on such actions, which can be misleading to the public, especially minors and young people.

"Since China's Charity Law was enacted in 2016, the impact on the tobacco industry's promotion has been serious. However, such enterprises have found loopholes in the law and launched various charity events targeting vulnerable groups like poor people, students and patients to build a positive image of tobacco sponsorship," said Wang Fan, deputy director of the institute and the lead researcher of the report.

"Tobacco sponsorships have launched various poverty relief and education-supporting programs and such sponsors go to school campuses, which can give students a wrong impression about tobacco. As a health risk by itself, tobacco enterprises in fact support medical service," Wang said. "But through a series of charity events, they are able to gain positive brand exposure."

Apart from sponsorship from traditional cigarette companies, the report also alerted people about "modern" sponsorship from e-cigarette enterprises, which makes use of environmental protection, rural revitalization, sustainable development and aging problems for brand building and social recognition to streamline product sales.

"Public awareness on tobacco sponsorship is not much prevalent and many people have a misunderstanding," Wang pointed out.

"There have been laws and rules to regulate tobacco advertisement and marketing but sponsorship is a hidden issue. So the laws and regulations should also be updated and perfected to increase supervision to restrict and regulate tobacco sponsorship. More public education on the harm of smoking should be conducted."

Li Kewei, technical officer of the tobacco-free initiative of the World Health Organization Representative Office in China, revealed that 66 countries have completely banned tobacco advertisement, promotion and sponsorship, indicating an international tendency and feasibility of whole tobacco sponsorship ban.

"The regional legislation in China has had precedence on complete tobacco sponsorship ban, which aims to protect public health and reduce tobacco use and the harm of second-hand smoking. For new issues like e-cigarette sponsorship, the WHO suggests a similar restriction or ban on advertisement, promotion and sponsorship," she said.

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