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Local government urges workers to light up fo -

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Local government urges workers to light up for the economy

The World Today - Tuesday, 5 May , 2009 12:34:00

Reporter: Meredith Griffiths

PETER CAVE: As the global economic slowdown deepens, governments around the world are doing all
they can to stimulate local industries.

But a provincial government in China has taken that to a new lovel level.

Chinese State media says a county government in Hubei province has ordered its staff to smoke
nearly a quarter of a million packets of locally made cigarettes to boost the economy.

Meredith Griffiths reports.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: In these tighter financial times many governments are pulling out all the stops
to support local industries.

Chinese media reports that Gong'an country government has ordered its staff to smoke 230,000
packets of locally-made cigarettes this year.

Mike Daube is a professor of health policy at Curtin University who has spent years looking at
tobacco control around the world.

He says the Hubei quota must be an aberration.

MIKE DAUBE: This example seems to be something really bizarre and you'd expect somebody will come
down on them like a ton of bricks.

But I think it does tell us something about the attitudes that people there just don't have the
innate understanding of the dangers of smoking that people in countries such as Australia now do

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: Some anti-smoking campaigners say it's incredibly hard to crack down on
cigarettes in countries like China where the Government actually owns tobacco companies.

Last year, China National Tobacco launched a joint venture with one of the major western tobacco
companies that helped the multinational company's profits rise by 14 per cent, despite the global

Professor Mike Daube again.

MIKE DAUBE: Just as developing countries are coming to grips with problems like infectious
diseases, we then impose on them man-made problems like smoking.

There's now a mass of evidence that the big global tobacco companies are targeting developing
countries very heavily, they're promoting their products heavily without any of the constraints
that apply in their home countries.

So you have hundreds of millions who are being targeted with the kind of promotion that would have
been unthinkable here even 20 or 30 years ago.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: But Professor Simon Chapman from the School of Public Health at the University
of Sydney is more optimistic.

He just got back from a trip to Beijing and Shanghai and says officials there have successfully
reduced the number of people smoking in public.

SIMON CHAPMAN: There are big differences between the cities and the rural areas where most of the
population lives.

But China has signed the framework convention on tobacco control - the World Health Organization
legally-binding treaty - and that commits China to introduce the sorts of legislative programs that
we have in Australia - big pack warnings, major health education campaigns, clean indoor air, those
sorts of things.

I'm pretty confident from what I saw and the enthusiasm of the senior officials that I was working
with that China will move very, very fast in the next few years.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: He's confident that public health regulations will outpace the efforts of the
big tobacco companies in countries like China, India and Nigeria.

PETER CAVE: Meredith Griffiths reporting.