Some will highlight that the moves might not necessarily be tied to evidence or the desire to promote good health. China runs its own tobacco company as a state monopoly, producing more than 1.7 trillion cigarettes each year for its 350 million smokers which raises well over £1.5 billion in profit. In 2003, this income accounted for almost 10% of China’s total revenue.
Unsurprisingly, some eyebrows may be raised when city officials now say they want to crackdown on second-hand smoke in the home. And, as part of this, a push is underway to crack down on alternative, safer nicotine products like vaping.
Officials have announced that nobody can sell devices or eliquids within 50metres of a primary or middle school. The approach mirrors America’s Think Of The Children tactic, ignoring evidence in order to shore up income from tobacco sales.
In their announcement, they stated they wanted to reduce exposure at home by 20% and raise the number of smoke-free families to 50%. While this could be described as laudable from a public health perspective, the officials gave no indication how such a target could be measured.
On the other hand, maybe the drive to continue a restriction on vape sales and use might be coming from a different direction. Despite being the world’s largest producer and consumer of tobacco products, China has been feted by the World Health Organization for adopting “the best buy (MPOWER) measures to reduce tobacco use”.
As part of the adoption of measures, the country has signed up to the “Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use in China”. Bloomberg’s minions say they will be supporting “the Government of China to strengthen country’s capacity for tobacco control and run sustainable tobacco control programmes that protect people from exposure to tobacco and tobacco smoke, prevent premature deaths from smoking-related diseases, and save lives.”
Shenzhen stands as the ultimate in contradictions in this new world approach. On one hand it is manufacturing around 95% of the world’s vape products, on the other it has among the toughest prohibitionist vape policies in China; in 2019 Shenzhen banned vaping in public and classified vapour as second-hand smoke.
The justification was “growing health concerns” but can probably be attributed to the combination of protecting the cigarette income as the market is now saturated and keeping the World Health Organization onside – which would also explain why it began targeting selling tobacco to the rest of the world last year [link].
It is safe to assume, while vape markets continue to exit abroad, Shenzhen will continue to churn out products to service them – but woe betide you if you are Chinese and want to use nicotine in a far safer manner than smoking.