China’s Governmental Position Regarding the Tobacco Industry


Original Chinese Language Article: ‘烟草业’ (Tobacco Industry)

(Research and Translation by Adrian Chan-Wyles)

Translator’s Note: I came across an American Youtube video that presented the idea that China possessed a vibrant tobacco industry, and that this was ‘stupid’ and ‘deceitful’. The implication was that China has a duplicitous political system that does not have the best interests of the Chinese people at its heart. The European imperial presence in China from 17th – 20th century introduced the Western habit of modern smoking to China. This was particularly intense during the pro-Western Nationalist Government Era which lasted from 1912 – 1949. Today, the Communist Government of China has inherited a bad habit from the West that has now been transformed into an advantage for the Chinese people. China has developed its own unique tobacco industry, even though the rate of smokers in China remains half of that found in the West. The tobacco industry in China is State Owned and pays substantial amounts in taxes and other forms of finance. It provides jobs for millions of people, and has helped impoverished areas to become affluent. So robust is this industry that it voluntarily finances projects such as the building of schools and advanced scientific facilities. Despite this, whilst developing new types of risk-free cigarettes, the Government of China continuously warns its citizens of the health risks associated with smoking conventional cigarettes. The following article explains why the Communist Party of China allows the tobacco industry to exist, when Chinese culture generally advocates healthy living. The tobacco industry in China is highly developed from a scientific and TCM point of view, which means cigarettes are being developed in China not only with minimal health risks, but also with some health benefits. ACW 18.2.2018

The Tobacco Industry in China

As the community realizes that smoking is harmful to health, the tobacco industry constantly makes use of science and technology to reduce the harm caused by cigarettes. This effort has not only achieved remarkable results, but is an ongoing process. One may wonder why the tobacco industry still exists and continues to develop in China today, when the unhealthy aspects of smoking have yet to be solved. This is because, fundamentally, the tobacco industry as it exists outweighs the disadvantages that a) already exist within society, or b) it might cause to society.

The social benefits generated by the tobacco industry outweigh the disadvantages – this is the standard that must be used. Three points must be clarified: First, the tobacco industry’s advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Society is an organic whole formed by multiple elements that are based upon interrelated material production activities. The angle of view should be multidimensional. Second, the tobacco industry’s social benefits outweigh the disadvantages within existential space-time conditions, that is, the tobacco industry is neither good nor bad. Its usefulness should be interpreted in a country-specific manner, through the stage of socio-economic development within which it is located. We hold that we should evaluate our country’s tobacco industry from the material reality of our country and oppose empty generalities. Thirdly, starting from the material reality of our country, we can measure whether an act, process or product outweighs any disadvantages. The most fundamental consideration depends upon whether it is conducive to the development of social productive forces, whether it is conducive to raising the overall national strength, and whether it is conducive to raising the living standards of the people. In our country, the tobacco industry has the function of accelerating the accumulation of funds and increasing the financial capacity of the country, whilst also supporting other industries. Why do governments in all countries promote tobacco cessation without canceling the tobacco industry at the same time? This is because all development costs money and the tobacco industry generates substantial income. The development of our country is now at an urgent period. We cannot let any chance go by for development of the economy. The tobacco industry accumulates large amounts of funds for the promotion of China’s economic construction, and as such represents a firm material reality.

Our country is a developing country. The tobacco industry’s tax revenue accounts for about one-ninth of our country’s tax revenue. Without this one-ninth revenue, there would be shortage of basic industries and infrastructural development, and local businesses would suffer.  This means that the gross national product of our country, the development of our country, and the improvement of our people’s living standard would all be seriously affected. This is by no means alarmist. There are 1.3 million tobacco farmers, 500,000 tobacco workers in the tobacco industry, and 5 million merchants who sell cigarettes. People as statistics in society are also people in reality. Only when we look at people from the position of social reality, can we determine the pros and cons, and assess the best direction of travel. What is good for society, in fact, is good for the people. Our country aims not only at developing economic strength, but also enhancing national power. The material reality which is the basis of society can only be strengthened through economic development.

First, smoking is harmful to our health. However, any disease has a multi-cause. It is unscientific and unfair to blame the loss caused by the disease on the tobacco industry. Smoking may cause cancer, but smoking is not the only cause of cancer.

Second, the economic benefits created by the tobacco industry are by no means limited to taxes and profits turned over to the State. For example, during the period of the 7th Five-Year Plan, more than 2 billion yuan of the peasants’ income in our country came from the cultivation of tobacco. In many places, poverty has been lifted by relying on the production of tobacco leaves.

Thirdly, 1.3 million peasants in our country farm tobacco and there are over hundreds of thousands of people closely linked with the tobacco industry. This is an unavoidable objective reality in our country. If the conclusion was reached that the tobacco industry was doing more harm than good to our society and it was abolished, then the jobs of 1.3 million farmers wuold be lost, and the lives of hundreds of thousands of people would be directly and negatively affected. As matters stand, the existence of the tobacco industry in China at this present time contributes to both the social and economic stability of the country.

Fourthly, there are nearly 300 million people smoking in our country. In view of the fact that smoking is harmful to health, and that the Government of China cannot get rid of smoking habits simply through issuing administrative orders, our government reminds smokers that this habit is bad for their health. On the other hand, the tobacco industry has been ordered to use scientific development to make cigarettes as harmless as possible.

At present, China’s per capita consumption of cigarettes is low, less than half of that in Western countries. Rural population accounts for 80% of the country’s consumption, and its sales of cigarettes account for 60% of the national total. There are a lot of handmade cigarettes and other forms of smoke consumption in rural areas. As people’s incomes continue to grow, they will be able to afford good quality filtered cigarettes.  As smoking certainly has negative health related issues associated with it, the tobacco industry in China has been transformed into a facility seeking healthier methods of smoking. This technical transformation has three aspects:

1) Gradually adopt internationally accepted approaches to research. For example: increase the filter, improve the roll paper, improve tobacco quality, tobacco sheets, ventilation and dilution, and reduce the amount of cigarette tar.

2) Explore a selective focus on ways to reduce harmful substances in tar. For example, in 1986, Huazhong Institute of Technology and Wuhan Cigarette Factory carried-out research into trace elements within tobacco additives. According to foreign data, low incidences of lung cancer has been linked to 0.46ppm of selenium content in cigarettes, whilst high incidences of lung cancer linked to 0.16ppm of selenium content in cigarette. The tobacco used in the Wuhan Factory has a selenium content of 0.22ppm. According to the advice of China’s nutritionists, the intake of selenium for Chinese adults should be 70 micrograms / person · per day, whilst the actual average intake is deficient and stands at 30 grams / person · per day. This shows that adding an appropriate amount of selenium is beneficial.

3) Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a long history and is a treasure trove of knowledge. The tobacco industry has been working with TCM experts to develop a distinctly Chinese cigarette that does not contain any of the health risks associated with its foreign counter-part. At the moment, hybrid cigarettes are being developed that will eventually evolve away from all harmful health implications. Thanks to the joint efforts of experts and scholars from the medical and health sector and the tobacco industry, some new mixed cigarette products have successively been put on the market and exported through a series of tests and accreditation, which have been well received by consumers. New hybrid cigarettes have to go through extensive clinical trials within medical and health departments, to test the pharmacology and toxicity of drugs and chemicals used, and to further analyse and review procedures. China’s medicinal resources are very rich. The Ming Dynasty Pharmacist Li Shizhen compiled a ‘Compendium of Native Chinese Medicinal Plants’, containing up to 1892 different kinds of medicinal plants, used to generate 11000 prescriptions. Different drugs are used to treat different conditions, and today there are currently more than 40 cigarette factories in China producing more than 50 kinds of TCM-derived cigarettes, containing different natural TCM ingredients.

At present, the tobacco industry is facing new situations and challenges. As people’s living standards improve, the effects of smoking upon people’s health is gaining more attention. Although there are different opinions, most countries are promoting cessation of smoking, with May 31st of each year being designated as ‘World No Tobacco Day,’ This general trend around the world restricts smoking in public places, with some countries passing laws prohibiting smoking altogether, and causing huge losses to tobacco companies (often settled with compensation payouts). Even the world’s largest tobacco company – Philip Morris of the United States – also recognises the harm caused by smoking. with the numbers of smokers in the United States and Britain has been reduced by more than 20%, and Singapore seeking to become a completely non-smoking country. Smoking being harmful to health seems to be the conclusion. Smoking is harmful to health because of the tar content produced during the combustion process of tobacco. This negatively affects the human trachea and is linked to lung carcinogens. In order to protect people’s health there must be produced low-tar cigarettes. Improving the safety of smoking has swept the countries in the world and is the direction of development for the tobacco industry in the future. Flue-cured tobacco tar content is high, drying tobacco tar content is low. If flue-cured tobacco leaves are mixed with 30% to 40% of sun-cured tobacco, then an effective hybrid cigarette is produced. This is one of the more effective measures to produce low tar cigarettes. Foreign hybrid cigarettes have been developed earlier, with faster progress, containing more brands and better quality. The tar content has dropped below 12mg / per cigarette, accounting for more than 70% of the total cigarette market. Ultra-low tar cigarettes (below 6mg / cigarette) are also being developed. The gap between our country and this foreign development is substantial, as the development of blended cigarettes is relatively new, whilst there is less brands, a poorer quality, and poorer sales, accounting for only 5% of the market. Tobacco-fueled cigarettes still dominate the market with less than 15 mg / of tar, implying poorer safety. After China’s accession to the WTO, foreign low-tar hybrid cigarettes will surely enter China in large quantities, and the cigarette market in China will be seriously affected. Vigorously developing low tar cigarettes to improve the safety of smoking and enhance the competitiveness with foreign cigarettes to keep the domestic market and prevent financial outflows is China’s direction of movement.

Original Chinese Language Article:烟草业/752153

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