Tobacco Control Policies:
Political awareness of the scale of the public health problem of tobacco is rising because of the huge health and social costs of smoking. The Chinese government has joined the rest of the world in tobacco control. However, policy makers in China are facing a conflict between the economic interest and the health concerns. In 2005, China has signed the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which requires China to adopt tax and non-tax methods to control tobacco use. The tobacco control policies include tax addition, price addition, advertising restrictions, packaging laws, secondary tobacco smoke restriction (smoke-free zones), (smoking bans), and tobacco trade reduction.
Chinese government also increases taxation on tobacco, which reduce tobacco demand and increase tax revenue. The cigarette taxes include ad valorem and specific duty, and the combined taxes accounting around 38% of the retail price of cigarettes. A 10% raise in cigarette tax would increase government revenues by 27%. If increase cigarette tax per pack from 40% to 50%, the increase in central government tax revenue would be twice more than the loss in industry revenue, tobacco farmers’ incomes, and local tax revenue. Moreover, this tax increase could save about 1.44 to 2.16 million lives. Therefore, additional taxation on cigarettes might be a desirable public policy to reduce smoking in China (Hu et al. 17).
Increasing tax would raise the price of tobacco products. This policy is an effective way to persuade young people to stop or not to start smoking. Increasing price is effective intervention for young people, because people with lower incomes tend to be more sensitive to price increases. However, increase taxes only affect low-income smokers, and many of these smokers will continue to smoke.
Chinese policy makers have not implemented tax policy strong enough. The reason that the government hesitate to increase tax is because they are afraid to harm the economy through reducing the economic benefits from growing, processing, manufacturing, exporting tobacco. Tobacco could contribute to revenues, jobs, and incomes, which is a barrier to tobacco control (Hu et al. 19). Increasing in price is not strong enough to reduce smoking in China in overall.
In addition to the taxation policies, Chinese government also adopts packaging policies in tobacco control. By signing the WHO FCTC, China agreed that clear health warnings of the dangers of smoking would be on the surface and back of 30% of every cigarette package (Wright et al. 13). The most common warning message printed is “Smoking is Harmful” on cigarette packs. After seeing the warning labels on the cigarette packs, about 64% of smokers do not think about quitting smoking. However, warning pictures were twice more effective than warning text in helping people to quit smoking. In addition, the warning pictures are also effective in educate people living in remote areas about the...