Chinese and foreign health experts in Beijing are urging China to print large warning pictures on cigarette packs, a week after the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a report on the global tobacco epidemic on July 7 in Uruguay.
Dr. Sarah England, a technical officer at the Tobacco Free Initiative with the WHO Representative Office in China, said Thursday at a tobacco-control seminar held in Beijing that people have a fundamental right to information about the harms of tobacco and countries have a legal obligation to provide it.
“However, in China, only 23.2 percent of adults believe that tobacco can cause stroke, heart attack and lung cancer,” said Dr. England. “Article 11 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) calls for packaging and labeling on tobacco products.”
The article stipulates that the consequences of smoking must be clearly and strikingly stated on tobacco packaging and that the words and pictures take up no less than 30 percent of the entire packaging space.
China signed the WHO FCTC agreement in 2003. Article 11 was supposed to take effect before Jan. 9, 2009, in China.
However, there are no warning pictures and specific words of warning on cigarette packs on the Chinese mainland.
“The only improvement in China’s commitment to the WHO FCTC on packaging was the ambiguous warning ‘Smoking is Harmful’ that has been printed on the front of cigarette packs since October 2008, not the sides,” Jiang Yuan, a deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said Friday.
Jiang added that the size of the text of the warning is small and it does not contrast strongly with the color of the packaging.
“Packaging is of critical importance for tobacco merchants,” said Wu Yiqun, executive vice director of the Thinktank Research Center for Health Development, as it can be used to tempt the young and females to start smoking.
At the same time, graphic health warning labels on tobacco packages are considered to be the best way of persuading smokers to quit, Wu said.
According to the 2011 report, 42 countries now have graphic warning labels on tobacco products’ packages, compared with 18 countries in 2008.