Lifestyle & Belief

China's Big Tobacco bankrolls schools


A young man smokes a cigarette in Beijing.


Liu Jin

Call it getting in on the ground floor.

Tobacco companies are said to be funding more than 100 primary schools in China, the world's largest tobacco market. 

The names of the schools often contain the names of Chinese cigarette brands — like as Zhongnanhai or Liqun — and some even have promotional slogans emblazoned on signs at the playground.

''Talent comes from hard work — Tobacco helps you become talented,'' reads one sign on the front of the Sichuan Tobacco Hope Primary School, according to the Sydney Morning Herald (via the Telegraph).

The school, which was built by the tobacco company after an earthquake in 2008, also bears the green leaf logo of China Tobacco, the country's powerful state-controlled monopoly. ...

... ''It is not just primary schools, they also fund secondary schools and universities. But it is difficult to count them, because the Ministry of Education would not help us,'' said Wu Yiqun at the Think Tank Research Centre for Health Development.

''We know there are definitely more than 100 primary schools though.''

Smoking is a big problem in China, where there are 16 million smokers under the age of 15 in China, 6.3 percent of the youth population, according to the Chinese government.

The high volume of smokers has obviously led to a high volume of smoking-related illnesses, which the World Health Organization has said will kill 2 million Chinese people every year by 2020.

China Tobacco is likely hoping a new generation of smokers will give them the benefit of the doubt.