China ranks second to last among developing countries on tobacco control, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report that is due to be made public by China's authorities at the end of this month.
With a total score of 44.6, China ranks the 13th among 14 nations that have reported their progress to the WHO on implementing the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. It indicates that the country has fallen behind not only developed countries but also developing countries such as Brazil, India and Uruguay in this regard, the Beijing Times reported Wednesday.
China, which ratified the WHO framework convention in 2006, will officially release the results of the report on May 31, World No Tobacco Day.
The assessment is made from five criteria, including protection from exposure to tobacco smoke, increasing prices and tax measures to reduce the demand, assistance given to people who wish to quit, warning messages on packaging and labeling of tobacco products, and restriction on tobacco advertisement and sponsorship.
Thailand, Uruguay and Brazil rank in the top three on the list whereas Russia, with a score of 43.1, is last.
"It's interesting that China is able to effectively curb the spread of diseases such as H7N9 but fails to control the use of tobacco. There are a lot of reasons involved," Zhang Xiulan, a public policy professor from Beijing Normal University, told the Global Times.
The report comes after authorities in Shenzhen said recently they would increase fines for smoking in restricted areas from 20 ($3.30) to 500 yuan, a move that has met with great public suspicion after media reports that no ticket had been issued in the city since the 20-yuan ban started 14 years ago.
"In many places in China, tobacco control is merely a policy on paper. Lack of education about the harm, failing to address the dangers on the packaging, shortage of enforcement methods, and most important of all, the official management of the industry have all contributed to the failure of tobacco control," said Zhang.
In some cities, the prosperity of the town is intertwined with the tobacco companies. Yuxi, a city in Southwest China's Yunnan Province, acquires 80 percent of its revenue from tobacco taxes. Yuxi's Hongta Group, one of China's biggest tobacco makers, paid taxes of over 39.5 billion yuan in 2012 alone, local media reported.
"It would be almost impossible for China to effectively restrain the use of tobacco if government stays addicted to the taxes it brings," added Zhang.