"Smoking is injurious to health". Only few people appear to be aware of this statement in China, as a report revealed on Sunday mentioned that only one-third of the doctors in the country know that smoking causes coronary heart disease and nearly four in five don't know that passive smoking can cause sudden infant death syndrome.
The report was released by national tobacco control office of the Ministry of Health to mark Sunday's World No Tobacco Day.
The report revealed that the country has more than 300 millions smokers, and more than a million people die from smoking-related diseases each year, or two deaths every minute.
It also indicated that three in five smokers do not know that smoking causes heart disease, and four in five do not know it could lead to a stroke.
"The figures have not changed much since 2002 and the country faces an extremely difficult situation in tobacco control", said Yang Gonghuan, Director of the office.
Anti-tobacco campaigners were calling for pictorial warnings on cigarette packs, which are the norm in 23 countries around the world. But insiders believe that the authorities have shied away for fear that terrifying pictures could scare away people who buy expensive cigarettes as gifts - which account for a huge chunk of tobacco companies' profits - and may cause a slump in sales.
Local media has reported that the tobacco industry in China has sold at least 42 million boxes of cigarettes and paid more than 430 billion yuan ($62 billion) in taxes last year, the national tax revenue in the same period was 5.42 trillion yuan.
Complications arise on implementation of strict rules as authorities have been intermingled in the country.
"Instead of the health ministry, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is responsible for implementing the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control," said Yang, reports Xin Dingding (China daily).
Earlier, a survey of 16,000 people in the country had found that nine in 10 learned of the illnesses and suffering caused by tobacco use only after seeing foreign cigarette packs with graphic warnings.
China tops the world in tobacco planting area, cigarette production and consumption, as well as tax revenues generated by the industry.