The volume of tar in Chinese brand cigarettes has been lowered gradually in a bid to reduce the harmful effects of smoking, the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration (STMA) has said.

“The volume of tar was reduced to 13.2 mg per cigarette last year,” Zhang Xiulian, a spokesman for STMA, told a press conference in Beijing.

In 2004, the tar content was 13.6 mg, he said, and was at its highest of 30 mg per cigarette in the 1970s.

Tobacco tar contains numerous cancer causing agents, including a component of cigarette smoke, benzo(a)pyrene, which can cause lung cancer, Zhang said.

“The amount of money the government spends every year controlling tobacco is much higher than the tax and benefits it generates from the industry, so we need to take a long term view,” Zhang Jing, a media liaison officer with the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control, told China Daily yesterday.

Great efforts are being made to promote public awareness about the harmful effects of smoking, he said.

Reducing the volume of cigarette tar was a good step, Zhang said.

“It is an uphill battle but China has the obligation to promote the control of tobacco,” he said.

China ratified the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control two years ago.

“There are only three years left for us to fulfill our commitment to having 100 percent control of tobacco in public places,” Zhang said.

China’s tobacco industry generated 388 billion yuan ($53.6 billion) in taxes and profits last year, up 25 percent year on year, the STMA said on Monday.

But the administration, which regulates the country’s tobacco market and oversees the China National Tobacco Corporation, did not elaborate on the growth.

Based on STMA figures, tax and profit from the tobacco industry accounted for 8 percent of the country’s fiscal revenue last year, which is expected to be about 5 trillion yuan.

China is world’s largest producer and consumer of tobacco, accounting for around a third of the global totals.

According to the Ministry of Health, it has more than 350 million smokers, of which 50 million are teenagers.

About 1 million people die from smoking related diseases every year, the ministry said.

That figure could rise to 2.2 million before 2020 if the smoking rate does not decline, World Health Organization chief representative in China Henk Bekedam warned last year.

About 540 million Chinese suffer from the effects of secondhand smoke and more than 100,000 die every year from diseases caused by passive smoking, the ministry said in its 2007 Report on China’s Smoking Control.

The government will ban all tobacco advertisements and related promotions by 2011.

Source China Daily/Xinhua

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