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China Exclusive: Calls for new charity law to ban tobacco donations

Xinhua, November 6, 2015 Adjust font size:

China's anti-smoking experts agree that the draft charity law should ban tobacco companies from sponsoring all forms of charitable activities.

A draft of the first charity law was published online by the top legislature last week to solicit public opinions. While lauding the stipulations forbidding tobacco promotion, there are calls for tougher restrictions.

According to the draft, organizations and individuals should not seek to promote tobacco products or tobacco firms through the act of charitable donations. Lawyer Li Enze said that this clause falls short as charitable activities take various forms including free clinics or fund raising, which are not included in the provision.

Yu Xiuyan, researcher with China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, said that the draft lacks any explicit description of the legal responsibility for violators.

Wu Yiqun, vice director of the Beijing-based anti-smoking advocacy group ThinkTank, suggested that the law should ban all kinds of charitable activities involving the tobacco industry and include legally accountability for law breakers.

"We should single out the tobacco industry from other industries considering the health hazards of smoking. Companies should be banned from promoting cigarettes in the name of charity," Wu said,"Charity is a cause for the betterment of society and wellbeing of people, while tobacco, which is intrinsically bad, goes against the very nature of this."

Many tobacco companies have been trying to gain market exposure by associating themselves with charity work, which is more detrimental to society than tobacco advertisements and can be especially misleading to young people, Wu said.

According to the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control, from November 2. 2014 to February 10. 2015, there were 89 cases of tobacco sponsorship in China.

Cui Xiaobo, professor with Capital Medical University in Beijing, said the tobacco industry is a major financier that the government turns to for support coping with disasters such as earthquake and fires.

"Will it be a loss for society if the companies are not allowed to donate?" he asked.

Angela Pratt, head of the Tobacco Free Initiative at World Health Organization China office, suggested that the government raise tobacco industry taxes and invest the money into public welfare instead.

China signed the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2003, which requires all signatories to "comprehensively ban all tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship."

Incorporating a ban on tobacco sponsorship into the charity law is in line with the spirit of the convention, Wu said, adding that it was important for the country to promote its anti-smoking campaign through legislation.

In April, China's top legislature adopted an amendment to the Advertisement Law forbidding tobacco advertisement across mass media, public places, public vehicles and outdoors. The new rules, widely praised by anti-smoking advocates, were enacted in September.

As the world's largest tobacco maker and consumer, there are more than 300 million smokers in China, almost the population of the U.S. Another 740 million people are exposed to second-hand smoke each year. Endit