• China has one of the biggest populations of smokers in the world.

China has one of the biggest populations of smokers in the world. (Photo : Reuters)

A government official announced on Wednesday that China is looking to raise taxes on tobacco and increase cigarette prices, according to a Global Times report.

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Yao Hongwen, spokesperson for the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said during a press conference that the move is timed with the tax reform China is undergoing and aimed at discouraging smoking among the country's citizens. Chinese smokers make up the biggest number of tobacco consumers in the world by country at more than 300 million.

"China is now on the course of fiscal and tax reform, which provides us with a rare chance to take advantage of raising tobacco taxes and prices for tobacco control," Yao said.

The move will not only benefit public health, but also contribute to revenues, according to the spokesperson.

"Raising the taxes and prices, in one respect, can reduce spending on tobacco and can lower smoking rates. At the same time, it can raise revenue taxes," he said.

According to a report by the World Health Organization in May, China's raising of tobacco taxes in 2009 did little to lessen the number of its smokers because the tax increase did not apply to the retail price of cigarettes.

A draft regulation made public by the State Council's Legislative Affairs Office in November called for the prohibition of cigarette advertisements and sponsorship.

Last year, the central government told government officials to lead by example and refrain from smoking in public.