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UPDATE: Controversial China Tobacco Research Withdrawn from Prize Competition

May 04, 2012


Health advocates and scientists in China have won a major victory by forcing the withdrawal of research by the China National Tobacco Company from consideration for a prestigious national science prize. The Ministry of Science and Technology announced the withdrawal, which came after the nomination sparked outrage among Chinese and international scientific and public health leaders.

China National Tobacco, which dominates the huge Chinese market, had claimed its research had produced cigarettes that are more flavorful and less harmful. The tobacco industry has long used similar tactics around the world to deceive the public into thinking there is a “safer” cigarette, discourage smokers from quitting and attract new smokers, including children.

The Ministry of Science and Technology said the project had received “33 opinions of opposition” and so was withdrawn from competition.

In addition, scores of well-respected scientists publicly objected to the research through media interviews, letters and social media. Dr. Michael O'Leary, the World Health Organization's representative in China, had publicly denounced the research and the award nomination.

The withdrawal is a milestone in health advocates’ efforts to “de-normalize” smoking in China, where nearly a third of adults smoke and more than one million people die each year from tobacco-related diseases.

Read more about the research controversy and China’s tobacco epidemic.