Graphic cigarette warnings not in keeping with Chinese traditions, official says

A smoker walks past Chinese national flags in front of a restaurant in Beijing, China, May 11, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

BEIJING (Reuters) - Scare pictures of cancer-ravaged lungs printed on cigarette packets do not fit with “Chinese cultural traditions”, state media on Tuesday reported an official of China’s state-owned tobacco monopoly as saying.

Authorities in the world’s biggest cigarette consumer want to rein in a widespread habit in a country where more than 300 million people have made cigarettes part of the social fabric, with another 740 million exposed to secondhand smoke.

Duan Tieli, deputy director of the State Tobacco Monopoly Association, said the monopoly had no plans to add pictures of blackened teeth and lungs to cigarette packages, the state-controlled Legal Daily said.

Such graphic health warnings printed on cigarette packs do not fit in with China’s cultural traditions, he said, according to the newspaper, but did not explain why.

China is not among the many countries mandating such warning labels on cigarette packages.

Over the past year, China has adopted tough new rules to curb smoking in public places as well as in offices, hospitals, schools and other areas. But few cigarette packages display clear warning labels explaining health risks.

Public health advocates have long said the state’s tobacco monopoly has lobbied to slow the pace of anti-smoking measures.

The lobby, which controls the overwhelming majority of the domestic market, wields extraordinary power because it provides an estimated 7 percent to 10 percent of government revenue, or as much as 816 billion yuan ($127 billion) in 2013.

Reporting by Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Clarence Fernandez