Tobacco Company Downplayed Risks in China, Report Says

An international tobacco company discouraged public smoking bans in China and tried to divert attention away from the health risks associated with smoking as they made forays into the country’s cigarette market. From the New York Times:

Beginning in the mid ’90s through at least 2002, British American Tobacco 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, the paper said.

The paper’s researchers based their report on an analysis of internal documents obtained from the London-based company in response to litigation. The paper, published in the December issue of the online journal PLoS Medicine, is sprinkled liberally with damning statements drawn from those documents.

In an e-mail, British American Tobacco officials denied they worked to undermine any laws and issued a statement saying that the company “welcomes sensible regulation” and consistently seeks “to engage with regulators to work towards balanced legal frameworks.”

Read the full report from PLoS Medicine, “‘Efforts to Reprioritise the Agenda’ in China: British American Tobacco’s Efforts to Influence Public Policy on Secondhand Smoke in China.

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