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China law curbs tobacco ads in land of smokers

[SHANGHAI] China's parliament has passed legislation that restricts tobacco advertising in public, strengthening efforts to curb smoking in a country where more than a billion people are smokers or exposed to second-hand smoke.

A revised Advertisement Law approved on Friday by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislative body, bans tobacco ads in the mass media, in public places, on public vehicles and outdoors, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Smoking is a major health crisis for China. More than 300 million people have made cigarettes part of the social fabric, and Xinhua said another 740 million people are exposed to second-hand smoke.

Last year, a health official said China was considering raising cigarette prices and taxes. The State Council, China's cabinet, has issued a draft regulation to ban indoor smoking, limit outdoor smoking and end tobacco advertising.

The amended law also outlaws tobacco products, their packaging and trademarks in advertisements for other products or services, Xinhua reported.

China's powerful State Tobacco Monopoly Administration, run by the younger brother of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang until February, had lobbied intensely to water down proposed restrictions on advertising, sources told Reuters in September.

The tobacco monopoly wields extraordinary power because it provides an estimated 7-10 per cent of government revenue - as much as 816 billion yuan (S$175.5 billion) in 2013.

Other changes were also made to the Advertisement Law.

One bans advertising for dairy products, drinks and foods that claim to be a substitute for breast milk, Xinhua reported. Another stipulates that advertisements for drugs, medical equipment and healthcare products cannot use endorsements testifying to the effects or safety of the products.

The revised law increases punishments for false advertising, bars children under the age of 10 from endorsing any products and prohibits advertising in schools or on educational materials, Xinhua reported.

The national flag, emblem and anthem, as well as the army's flag, emblem and song, are made off limits to advertisers, it said.

REUTERS