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    China Health Officials Call for Graphic Cigarette Warnings

    Health officials in China say photos depicting the hazards of smoking should appear on cigarette packaging as part of a campaign called “Toward a Smoke-Free China,” the Associated Press reported Feb. 16.

    “An effective warning is very important,” said Yang Gonghuan, director of China’s National Tobacco Control office and deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Current packaging displays the simple warning: “Smoking is harmful to your health.”

    A website for the campaign will be used to collect online signatures and opinions to be presented to legislators in advance of the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress.

    Although China ratified World Health Organization rules in 2005 designed to strengthen tobacco controls, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said new rules on tobacco packaging do not meet international standards.

    The signature drive has no legislative force but instead is seen as a way to influence government tobacco-control policies, as well as a step toward educating a population that remains unaware of the harmful effects of tobacco.

    China’s government relies on funding from state-owned tobacco companies, which had $53.6 billion in revenues in 2007.