Photo: keeffery via Youku
“Talent comes from hard work — Tobacco helps you become talented.” This is the sign that students of Sichuan Tobacco Hope Elementary School see every morning on their way to class, reports Bloomberg. It is just one of over 100 elementary schools sponsored by a tobacco company. Many schools devastated by the 2008 China earthquake were rebuilt with financial help from the government’s 605 billion Yuan tobacco industry, regulated by the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration.
Wu Yiqun from the Think Tank Research Centre for Health Development says that it costs 200,000 Yuan to sponsor one of the Hope schools, and tobacco companies have not missed a beat in taking advantage of this charity to reach young kids. Tobacco advertisements are banned on Chinese TV, radio, and newspapers, but there is no regulation on sponsorships. Schools have become the perfect medium for tobacco brands to reach children, and their families.
A survey of 13 to 15 year old boys by Peking University revealed that most of them had their first cigarette at age 10. This is no surprise when there are regularly vendors outside school gates, ready to sell toys and cigarettes. Things are no better inside where they are given uniforms with cigarette logos and candy resembling cigarettes.
There are numerous bans on public smoking in China, including the latest one which took effect this past May, but because the tobacco industry is state run, it is nearly impossible to control. This is truly a love-hate relationship. According to the report “Tobacco Control and China’s Future,” tobacco generates 6.7% of the government’s revenue. In addition, tobacco companies also donate to a number of charities including funding for 42 school libraries in Xinjiang and 40 in Tibet, 500,000 Yuan to drought-ridden Yunnan, and 90,000 to the Red Cross of Guangzhou. Most of their donations can be found on their website.
Many are doing their best to fight these sponsorships, but according to Bloomberg, the Ministry of Education wants to see more proof that these tobacco company sponsorships cause harm before they will take action.
Meanwhile China consumes 50,000 cigarettes every second. Check out 18 more mindblowing facts about China >
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