Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Shanghai World Expo Says "No" to Tobacco Sponsor

rganizers of the Shanghai World Expo in 2010 have canceled a sponsorship deal for the China pavilion by Chinese cigarette maker Shanghai Tobacco in response to outcry by China’s growing anti-smoking lobby. Organizers of the Shanghai fair turned down a $29.3 million deal previously signed in May, the Shanghai Daily reported. That’s a huge amount considering how the U.S. is still struggling to raise $61 million from U.S. companies [though no tobacco companies]to build its USA National Pavilion. U.S. backers so far include 3M, Pepsi, GE, Yum Brands [KFC], Walmart, Intel and NYSE Euronext.

What’s surprising is that organizers of the Shanghai Expo ever consented to the tobacco deal in the first place. The world’s fair is themed “Better City, Better Life” with a strong focus on green technologies aimed at building a cleaner environment. But then again, the state-owned tobacco industry is hugely profitable and powerful. You can bet it will be lobbying hard against a proposed anti-smoking law to be discussed by the Shanghai Peoples Congress next month. Like the smoke-free Beijing Olympics, the Shanghai Expo has billed the Expo, which is open from May to October next year, as smoke-free. Smoking inside offices, restaurants and most public spaces is still legal in China.

China is one of the biggest growth markets for international tobacco companies such as Philip Morris International, maker of Marlboro cigarettes. For more on what it’s doing in China have a look at the cover story Nanette Byrnes and I wrote for BusinessWeek earlier this year. China has about about 350 million smokers, accounting for one third of the world’s puffers.