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Print Edition> Forum
UPDATED: December 20, 2010 NO. 51 DECEMBER 23, 2010
Is "Tobacco Charity" Acceptable or Not?

The donations from the tobacco industry are likely to bring a negative value to society since a positive image might be set up in poverty-stricken areas. Besides, teenagers might consider tobacco beneficial. If we take a more serious case for example, the profits of drug dealers can go to public welfare programs as well, if we don't consider the potential harm of such donations.

Here comes a new question: How can the tobacco industry do something good to the society? Besides donations, does it have another path to go? My suggestion is increasing tobacco taxation and using the increase to improve people's livelihoods in a systematic way. In this way, the problem is solved without violating any regulations and at the same time the poor are helped.

Chun Ye (www.yzdsb.com.cn): A fund set up by the tobacco industry is totally different from a charity donation. Without any doubt the fund is a long-term and continuous image promotion project. If it's conducted by tobacco corporations, the fund has apparently violated the Advertisement Law and the Framework Convention.

We shouldn't enlarge the extension of "charity." Under circumstance of stricter tobacco control around China, donations from the tobacco industry can be seen as—looking for any chance to advertise.

Second best choice

Zhang Benqiang (www.cnhubei.com): The donation from the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration was strongly opposed by many people since they think it violates the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Their concern makes sense. But, if we deny the donations from the tobacco industry, it will apparently violate the spirit of charity. We should do prevention work instead of worrying about increase in the number of smokers.

First, we should strengthen regulation on tobacco companies. For instance, we can use foreign countries' experience for reference such as printing diseased lungs and hearts on the cigarette packets to warn people of the danger of smoking. Second, we can fully use the media such as TV and radio to publicize the harm of smoking and also educate people in school classrooms and in the community, so as to control the number of new smokers while at the same time gradually decrease the number of adult smokers.

A 10-million-yuan donation means a lot to poor rural areas. We should offer a chance to people who want to get involved in charity, and also appropriately use donations to help people. Collecting efforts for charity to improve the livelihoods of poor people is far more charitable than discussing whether we should take the donation or not.

China National Tobacco Corp., together with its staff, donated 339 million yuan ($50 million) when the Wenchuan Earthquake occurred in 2008. The donation from the industry is not a monster. The fact now is that it is difficult to raise donations for China's public welfare undertaking, and so the most urgent task is gathering more donations to help more people to get rid of poverty and diseases.

Shu Shengxiang (Legal Daily): Tobacco control experts say they think the donation is tobacco companies' marketing campaign, which aims at setting up a positive image. It may be an advertisement for smoking. But the fundamental problem is the right to be charitable.

I think sponsorship is different from charity in meaning. Sponsorship is a commercial activity while charity is voluntary. But in reality, sponsorship and charity can be quite similar, hard to define and to tell apart from each other.

"Tobacco charity" is under suspicion of violating the Framework Convention, which is indisputable. But the key problem is phenomena violating the Framework Convention are so common nowadays, and "tobacco charity" is not the worst of them. In one way, it can help people who need the money. In another, it has a relatively smaller negative impact on society.

We have a less developed charity culture in China as the concept of charity is not yet widely spread and finance for charity is far from enough. In my opinion, "tobacco charity" has a legitimate source of funding. Why do we stop their donations? Inefficient tobacco control is a real problem we should face.

We should focus on the worst violations such as tobacco packaging and tobacco advertisements rather than discussing "tobacco charity" all the time. Of course, it would be better if we could further increase the amount tobacco companies hand in to the government, and the government allocates that money to weaker groups that need help.

Yang Guodong (Morning Express): Regardless of its social image, the tobacco industry is legally allowed by the government and its income is legitimate. So, I think the tobacco industry can use its legitimate income for public welfare or charity undertakings. Opponents always use the Framework Convention as a reference. But the convention only forbids "advertising, promotion and sponsorships," while charitable donations are not among them. We shouldn't extend its explanation deliberately; neither should we reject their charitable donations.

Sure, charitable donations will be helpful for tobacco industry's image to a certain extent. But it's too much to say that it will promote tobacco consumption and harm people's health. It underestimates common people's IQs.

We should support charitable donation from the tobacco industry's profit, since donating is at least better than expanding production. Anyway, it's good for charity because it could benefit people who need help.

Wang Chuantao (Shenyang Daily): The premise of charity is helping people who need it. If any worries about possible negative impact stop those people from getting help, it would not be charity.

With the current situation of supervision for state-owned enterprises, we should give tobacco producers the right to use the profit for charity rather than letting them use it for other purposes. Receiving donations from the tobacco industry is a realistic decision considering the current condition of charity and the condition of state-owned enterprises in China.

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