TOBACCO CONTROL POLICY IN CHINA
Tobacco smoking is an urgent problem in China. The country has become the largest tobacco consumer, whose 350 million smokers account for one-third of the world’s annual tobacco consumption (Hu, 2008; WHO, 2015). The country is now facing with “a tobacco-induced health catastrophe” (Clarke & Tan, 2011, p. 490) that is associated with huge financial losses. In 2000, the economic costs of smoking in China amounted to $5.0 billion (Sung et al., 2006). In 2014, considering heavy health and economic burden, national legislators of China announced a resolute struggle against smoking. The research suggests that China’s tobacco control policy has been weak in terms of public health, and provides recommendations to address its evident gaps.
II. China’s Tobacco Control Policy
China’s tobacco control policy has a long history. Its roots can be traced in the period between 1949 and the 1960s, when the Ministry of Education launched the Regulations for Primary and Middle School Students to struggle with tobacco smoking among Chinese youth. In the period between 1949 and the 2000s, attempts to address tobacco smoking among different population groups were scarce, and dominated mainly by experts. In January 2006, China joined the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The Convention included a number of issues related to the spread of tobacco smoking – the launch of smoke free places, limited tobacco advertisement, promotion, and sponsorship, strict regulation of tobacco packaging and labeling, and introducing a roadmap to tobacco control legislation (Tobacco Control Laws, 2015). After almost a decade after the Convention was adopted, Chinese society is reluctant to address the problem. The research examines the reasons why tobacco control policy is weak in China. The reasons are approached in terms of social conflict theory.
III. Social Conflict Theory to Address Tobacco Control Policy in China
Tobacco control policy in China is addressed in terms of social conflict theory. The conflict theory is based on the assumption that scarce resources and power are unequally distributed, and it generates conflicts between different social groups (Dahrendorf & Collins, 2006). Harmony and disharmony that exist within groups are preconditions to their development (Coser, 1956).Social conflict perspective explains why tobacco control policies are weak in China. There is a conflict between manufacturers of tobacco products and community activists advocating for banning tobacco smoking. The former have huge resources, which is illustrated by the fact that the world’s largest tobacco companies are situated in China (Hu, 2008). They are interested in the ever-growing number of smokers, as it is related to excess profit. Community activists are numerous; however their resources are fewer when compared to tobacco companies. Their opposition to tobacco giants is hindered by the need to face with ethical dilemmas, for example the closure of factories for the production of tobacco goods would leave thousands of people without means of livelihood. The conflict between the two groups weakens tobacco control policies in China.
The research examines tobacco control policy in China, the …