Some local authorities reaction to ensure they got what they considered was their communities fair share of the tobacco tax revenue,was to try and boost sales of the locally manufactured cigarettes by setting smoking targets for villages, factories, schools and other organisations in the area. Special tasks forces were set up to police it. Our research shows that a teacher in one local school "violated" the civil servant's usage rule by smoking cigarettes of the "wrong" brand. The school escaped a fine after some negotiation, but were vilified for "lack of discipline".
No folks,I haven't cracked up and I haven't been dreaming or having a nightmare. And fortunately the above scenario was nothing to do with the U.K., but it was a situation that actually happened in China in 2009.! Can you believe that someone could actually create headlines of this sort in the 21st, century?
Ok, let me put that into some sort of context. No.1. China is the world's largest grower of tobacco. No.2. China is the world's largest manufacturer of cigarettes. No.3. China has some 300million smokers,making them the world's largest consumers. In fact the Chinese people smoke around one third of the world's cigarettes. Not 3 world records to be proud of.
It is thought, by the people who's job it is to think things like this, that this situation was bought about by the plummeting demand for China's products internationally. And with 7% of Chinese central government revenue coming from smoking related products, that this was the knee jerk reaction by some very patriotic local authorities, feeling they could redress any impending reduction in their revenue from central government, by pumping up the volume smoked (and therefore tax revenues) in the areas under their immediate control!
To be fair, this was against national anti smoking policies that Beijing were promoting. However smoking is so ingrained in Chinese psyche that this is the sort of thing that local government officials were prepared to do for what they thought was the good of their community. Okay, so people got sick and died, but only 20% of the population believe the doctors and scientists who expound the perils of smoking. China has around 100 cigarette making factories, and there are a couple of hundred of other related manufacturing plants concerned with drying and curing of the tobacco. So there are huge numbers of people employed in this industry.
Tell you what folks, I got to this point feeling quite positive and happy about writing this post and this blog. To write this stuff,I've had to do quite a lot of research,and I've enjoyed it right up to about now! You know, I have been feeling extremely proud and chuffed to pieces that after a lifetime of smoking, I managed to give it up. Then I started to get interested, and passionate, telling people about the perils of smoking. I had no idea of the Pandora's box I'd begun to open! Honestly, the more research I do, the more hopeless and helpless I feel, and I'd got to thinking what on earth do I think I am doing! What on earth can I achieve? This whole smoking business is just absolutely crazy.
1 million people in China will die this year due to smoking
related illnesses !
This is set to increase to 3 million in a decade or so!
Tobacco production in China is set to hit 300million tonnes this year, and they will make around 43 out of every 100 cigarettes produced worldwide. Staggering figures. Now it may seem that I am "picking on" China, but that wasn't my intention. I originally selected China to research because I had been hearing good things about the growth of the anti smoking lobby in the country. For example, in 2005 China ratified a World Health Organisation anti smoking treaty after lengthy discussion and negotiation. Sadly, since then cigarette production and market share has increased! And how!! ........ By 30% can you believe?
Incredibly, this does not appear to be the Chinese government playing silly beggars or ignoring the W.H.O. treaty it ratified. It seems that enthusiastic factory managers, with help from American industry experts, have, in a relatively short space of time improved efficiency and productivity. Now isn't that unbelievably frustrating ? Enthusiastic employees increasing production! Wouldn't that be great if it was a product that didn't actually kill people? Yet so enthusiastic and patriotic are some of these people that the industry has stated it wants to grow it's contribution to the state from 7% to 10%. And this with no state coercion, but simply, they are proud of their industry and the amount of work it provides and money it generates for the State. You gotta applaud their work ethic, enthusiasm and patriotism, even if we as individuals, see it as misplaced. I say "we as individuals" rather than "we in the West" or " we in the U.K.", for reasons that I will discuss or throw at you later. If only this level of enthusiasm could be channelled into creating life enhancing products, I would applaud even louder.
You know, 2/3 of young Chinese men will become smokers. Currently 68% of them smoke. Interestingly, in 1930, 10% of Chinese women smoked, now, only 3.2% of them smoke. I hope someone is planning to do some research into this as it may hold a key piece of information to reduce smoking for men.
Anyway, in one of my earlier posts I intimated that maybe governments should stand up and be counted and ban fag factories. However, when you then look in greater depth you realise it ain't that simple. Half a million people work in China's tobacco industry and it is estimated that around 20 million people earn some income from tobacco, farmers, retailers and so on.
With 80% of the population not believing (or caring) that smoking is harmful, it's difficult to see how this situation can be changed.
Unless another industry capable of employing and supporting these huge numbers of people is created, it's hard to see how anti smoking campaigners or anti smoking laws can combat this state of affairs.
I said earlier about how we as individuals may see the Chinese workforce's efforts as misplaced, it's likely that the Chinese government, how ever anti smoking they maybe, (president Xi Jinping has now given up smoking) prefers to see the status quo maintained rather than have millions of people dying from poverty through lack of employment. This situation is probably not limited to just China, but I will continue with that point at a later date.
There is however, a ray of hope !
And it is that little ray of hope that has kept me writing about the perils of smoking! Almost exactly a year ago Beijing, China's capital city, announced sweeping anti smoking laws, banning smoking in public places such as theatres, cinemas, restaurants, bars, offices and public transport. It announced changes in the way tobacco products could be advertised, and stipulated that cigarette packets should carry health warnings. And to act as an example, knowing his fellow countrymen's ingrained acceptance of smoking, president Xi Jinping has banned his officials from smoking in public. Implementing the law though has produced another set of problems and rather than lumber an overworked police force with the job, the authorities asked for unpaid volunteers! And in Beijing alone some 12,000 volunteers signed up! They are issued with a badge that states "anti smoking inspector" and they approach people seen breaking the new laws and discuss with them the error of their ways. They are not able to hand out fines, but will report belligerent offenders to the authorities who will take further action.
As these anti smoking laws are rolled out across the country it's good to see that people are happy to volunteer as unpaid inspectors, so it appears that there is a ground swell of anti smoking feeling growing in China. Ok, I admit that it is a very small ray of hope, but to use another overworked cliche " from little acorns" .................!!