(Yicai Global) June 29 -- After last year's ban on tobacco ads in public places, cigarette makers have been trying to market products through stealth advertising or by offering discounts. As experts point out, this type of advertising falls into a gray area, and they are appealing to the government for a complete ban on tobacco advertising.
The ban on tobacco ads applies to public and outdoor spaces, and stealth advertising is also prohibited, according to Article 22 of last September's Advertising Law.
The Chinese Association on Tobacco Control (CATC) yesterday released the findings of a survey conducted in 11 cities that suggests the number of tobacco ads in outdoor and public places has been significantly reduced, but are still to be found in almost 47 percent of the tobacco point-of-sales locations checked. Promotional techniques used include window advertising, posters and displaying cigarette cases in prominent positions.
"Legally speaking, tobacco sales points are definitely public places and should not display any tobacco advertisements," said Mr. Xu Guihua, former vice executive president of CATC and an established tobacco control expert.
China is the biggest consumer market for tobacco products, accounting for some 45 percent of all cigarettes smoked worldwide, but sales of cigarettes fell for the first time since 2000 last year, dropping 2.36 percent.
Smokers account for almost 28 percent of China's population, with men far outnumbering women. Over half of China's adult male population smokes, with some one million dying every year from tobacco-related illnesses, according to the World Health Organization. The Lancet medical journal predicts that at current rates a third of young Chinese men will die of smoking-related diseases.
The Advertising Law, coupled with an increase in tobacco tax last May, dealt a severe blow to the profitability of China's tobacco industry. According to statistics published by the National Bureau of Statistics, China's tobacco companies saw combined profits slump 24 percent to CNY46.67 billion (USD7.02 billion) in the January-May period from a year earlier. Profits from tobacco product sales plunged 57.2 percent this May, 34.5 percentage points more than in April.