Objective To critically review the structure of tobacco control policy making in China, examine conflicts of interest within this structure, and consider how these affected the introduction of on-pack warnings.
Methods Government policy documents and warning labels were obtained and critically reviewed.
Results Few differences exist between the on-pack warnings formerly used in China and those introduced ostensibly to meet Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) obligations. Comparison with tobacco manufactured for export or overseas consumption shows the new Chinese domestic on-pack warnings are demonstrably inferior to those required internationally. The inherent conflict of interest in the Chinese tobacco control agency structure, which must meet commercial and public health objectives, undermined the introduction of new health warnings.
Conclusions To promote more effective tobacco control policies, the conflict of interest inhibiting the public health function of the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration (STMA) must be removed. Specifically, the public health function must be separated from oversight of commercial production, and packaging must be redesigned with pictorial warnings and messages compliant with Article 11 of the FCTC.
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Funding Funding was received from the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use (870-2233) and NIH project ‘Epidemiology and Intervention Research for Tobacco Control in China’ (R01 RFA-TW-06-006).
Competing interests None.
Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Institute of Basic Medical Sciences of Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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