China is considering raising tobacco taxes and cigarette prices to reduce the number of smokers in the country, said an official on Wednesday.
Yao Hongwen from the National Health and Family Planning Commission said at a press conference that the commission will work together with other agencies to push hard for a tax boost as a way to protect public health.
"China is now on the course of fiscal and tax reform, which provides us with a rare chance to take advantage to raise tobacco taxes and prices for tobacco control," said Yao.
The Chinese Government in 2009 raised tobacco taxes. But a report published by the World Health Organization in May said China's tax increase has had no impact on tobacco consumption because "higher taxes were not passed on to the retail price of cigarettes."
The report said tobacco in China is very cheap, and tobacco in China has become much more affordable over time as average incomes have increased with China's rapid economic growth and development.
As the world's largest tobacco maker and consumer, China has more than 300 million smokers, and another 740 million people are exposed to second-hand smoke each year. According to the official, some 1.36 million Chinese people die from smoking-related diseases annually.
The Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council released a draft regulation on tobacco control last month which said China would ban all forms of tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion of tobacco products.
In late 2013, the central government asked government officials to take the lead and stop smoking in public places.
(Xinhua News Agency December 10, 2014)