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Ministry of Health to research safeguards against PM2.5

March 09, 2012

3月5日,参加十一届全国人民代表大会第五次会议的全国政协委员、卫生部部长陈竺在被媒体截住接受采访时向记者介绍,3年来,财政投入医改的新增经费是11000多亿元人民币,‘十二五’期间,政府对医改的投入还会有更大的增加。中新社记者 泱波 摄

While talking to reporters at the 5th session of the 11th National People’s Congress, CPPCC member and Minister of Health Chen Zhu said that over the past three years the government has allocated more than CNY 1.1 trillion [app. USD 174.3 million] for ongoing healthcare reforms, and that they will continue to increase funding throughout the 12thFive-Year Plan. Photo by Yang Bo, journalist at China News Service.

China News Service newswire; March 09, Beijing (journalists Shi Yan and Tian Jun): Chinese Minister of Health Chen Zhu on March 09 revealed that the Ministry of Health is organizing a team to research effective safeguards against PM2.5.

Chen Zhu made the above remarks while speaking with China News Service reporters during an intermission at the 5th session of the 11th National People’s Congress on March 09.

PM2.5 are also called inhalable particles. They seriously compromise air quality and visibility. Listed in the agenda presented by State Council premier Wen Jiabao on March 05 is an item for PM2.5 testing, to be conducted this year in vital areas such as the Beijing-Tianjin-Shijiazhuang metro area, Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta, as well as all other municipalities subordinate to the central government and all provincial capitals. By 2015 the project will be expanded to include all cities at or above the prefecture level.

Chen Zhu said that, unlike the routine readings done by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Ministry of Health will focus on the impact of PM2.5 on [public] health, and research the link between inhalable particles and respiratory and cardiovascular disease.

Chen also revealed that the Ministry of Health is mulling a partnership with other arms of the central government – namely MIIT – to introduce tobacco control regulations at the national level. China joined the FCTC in 2006. Significant progress has been in made in controlling tobacco use but the public is demanding that more be done in this area.

“We issued a ministerial directive, and despite criticism that an order from the minister was merely departmental policy and would not have the desired effect, we were still able to express where the government stood on this matter,” stressed Chen.

Minister of Industry and Information Technology Miao Wei said recently that MIIT is currently drawing up a plan for FCTC implementation and will clarify the rules regarding messages on cigarette packaging alerting users to the health risks of smoking.

During an interview with reporters on March 09, Chen Zhu said they would continue to adjust the tobacco tax: “We have been doing this all along. We made an adjustment last year, but it was for luxury cigarettes only. This didn’t really help control the number of smokers. An upward adjustment on mid-range and low-priced cigarettes will definitely happen soon,” he said.

As to whether or not the public would back the measure, Chen Zhu said he was very confident they would: “I think the general public will support it because adolescents are the most sensitive to tobacco prices, and tobacco is harming adolescents more than any other group. Raise prices just a little higher, and the youth are likely to opt out …  According to our calculations, after we raise the tobacco tax there will be a more substantial drop in the number of smokers.”

As to whether or not a tax hike would be detrimental to fiscal revenues, Chen Zhu responded in the negative: “This won’t have any impact on fiscal revenues. Based on the experience of Western countries, there might even be an increase in revenues for a period of time.”

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