BAT China - downplayed the dangers of second hand smoke..

December 31, 2008 - Three hundred million people smoke in China, accounting for one-third of the global “consumption” of cigarettes. Each year, about one million people die in China from tobacco-caused diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and lung disease. More than 100,000 deaths from tobacco-related causes occur annually among the 540 million Chinese people who are exposed to secondhand smoke (SHS, environmental smoke, passive smoking, involuntary smoking).

China became a party to the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Treaty in 2005 but restrictions on smoking in public places in China remain limited and ineffective. Previous analyses of internal tobacco industry documents have revealed that transnational tobacco companies (TTCs) have used a multifaceted approach to undermine the adoption of restrictions on smoking in many countries.

Based on an analysis of internal documents researchers have found beginning in the mid ’90s through at least 2002, British American Tobacco (BAT) downplayed smoking-related disease in China by suggesting air pollution was a greater public health threat than smoking and arguing that the focus should be on what it characterized as China’s top killer, liver disease. As recently as 2006, despite two decades of research into the harms of second-hand smoke, China’s State Tobacco Monopoly Association was issuing statements that more research was needed to determine the effects of smoke exposure.

Research article: Monique E. Muggli1, Kelley Lee, Quan Gan, Jon O. Ebbert, Richard D. Hurt, “Efforts to Reprioritise the Agenda” in China: British American Tobacco's Efforts to Influence Public Policy on Secondhand Smoke in China, published December 2008 in the online journal PLoS Medicine.

Reference: Tobacco Company Downplayed Risks in China, Report Says by RONI CARYN RABIN, The New York Times, 12/29/2008.