Thursday, May 7, 2009

Smoke one for the people, Chinese civil servants ordered

This week, civil servants in China's Gongan county were ordered to smoke cigarettes. Not just one or two. A target of 230,000 cigarettes was set for all those on local government payroll to smoke in a year. If this target is not reached, they face a fine. But they can only smoke local Hubei cigarettes though - smoke the more popular brand from Hunan, and you get fined also.

You may wonder if this is China's newest plan to tackle its overpopulation problem by getting lots of people to die from lung cancer. But it was all a plan to boost tax revenues; the government can impose taxes on locally-produced cigarettes but not on those from other districts. And given that taxes make up around 40% of the price of a packet of cigarettes, you can see what a lucrative little earner it would have been.

Fortunately, the order was revoked after an uproar, as news of it spread around China and the world. So Gongan's officials can breathe easier.

Well, maybe a little easier, anyway - 56% of adult males in China smoke regularly, and the nation's 350 million addicts puff their way through 2 trillion cigarettes each year.

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