WHO: China needs comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, promotion & sponsorship

News release

“The World Health Organization (WHO) congratulates the Government of China on its move to strengthen restrictions on tobacco advertising, and values the opportunity to comment on the current proposed amendments to China’s Advertising Law,” said Dr Bernhard Schwartländer, WHO Representative in China.

Dr Schwartländer made the comments following a submission by WHO to the State Council Legislative Affairs Office this week. The Legislative Affairs Office invited comments from the public on proposed changes to China’s Advertising Law.

“The proposed changes to the Advertising Law would strengthen existing restrictions on tobacco advertising, which is very welcome,” said Dr Schwartländer.

“Banning all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship is one of the most cost-effective tobacco control measures any government can take. Cutting demand for tobacco products has a direct and measurable impact on public health,” Dr Schwartländer explained.

“Banning tobacco advertising is critically important for one very simple reason. Tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship are known to increase tobacco use, particularly among young people,” Dr Schwartländer added.

“Comprehensive bans on all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship are therefore critical for protecting young people from a lifetime of addiction to the hazards of tobacco use,” Dr Schwartländer said.

This is especially important in China where:

  • More than half (52.7%) of smokers aged 20-34 years started smoking daily before the age of 201; and
  • 86 per cent of five and six year old Chinese children can recognize at least one cigarette brand logo, and 22 per cent say they expect to be smokers when they grow up.2

In its submission, WHO highlights the requirements of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). The WHO FCTC calls for a comprehensive ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship within five years of the treaty coming into force for each Party. China ratified the WHO FCTC in 2005, and the treaty came into legal force in China in 2006.

Currently, some, but not all tobacco advertising is restricted in China. The proposed changes to the Advertising Law would strengthen the existing restrictions, but advertising would still be allowed in some circumstances (for example, on billboards).

“This means the proposed amendments do not meet the requirements of the WHO FCTC for a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising,” said Schwartländer.

“The WHO’s advice to the State Council Legislative Affairs Office is therefore clear: we support strengthening of the existing restrictions, but we also urge consideration of further amendments that will ensure a complete, enforceable ban on all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship in China,” said Dr Schwartländer.

“By reducing exposure to tobacco marketing, a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising will significantly reduce the chances that Chinese children grow up to become smokers – and that is something we should all be striving for,” Dr Schwartländer concluded.

For more information, please contact:

Ms WU Linlin
WHO China Office
E-mail: wul@wpro.who.int
Office Tel: +86 10 6532 7191


1Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) China 2010 Country Report.
2Borzekowski DLG, Cohen JE. International Reach of Tobacco Marketing Among Young Children. Pediatrics 2013; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2013.
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