Low-tar and herbal cigarettes

Chinese health experts have called for one of the country’s elite academies to revoke the membership of a tobacco scientist whose major research, they claim, had a negative impact on the nation’s health.

Xie Jianping, an academic with a tobacco research institute for China National Tobacco Corporation (China Tobacco), has been the subject of controversy since he was honored with a seat in the elite Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE) on Dec. 8.

Xie’s major research focuses on low-tar and herbal cigarettes, which it is claimed are less harmful than conventional tobacco products, according to the website of Xie’s institute.

“Xie’s research on low-tar cigarettes was disastrous to China’s tobacco-control efforts. It was not a contribution to the nation,” said Xu Guihua, deputy head of the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control, at a press briefing Thursday.

“I urge the CAE to revoke Xie’s academic membership.”

She said her association has submitted a formal letter to the CAE, urging a review of Xie’s research and other related studies on low-tar cigarettes as well as the termination of state funding for research which aims to promote tobacco products.

“Low-tar has become known as a popular promotion tool of tobacco companies,” said Yang Gonghuan, head of the China Tobacco Control Office under Chinese Center for Diseases Control and Prevention (China CDC). “There is no safe level of tobacco consumption. Smokers are more likely to inhale deeper when they consume low-tar cigarettes, and that actually increases the health risks.”

Yang blamed the tobacco companies’ low-tar promotion strategy for the 41.15 percent growth in cigarette sales in China from 2000 to 2010.

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