Local government officials in China have been ordered to smoke nearly a quarter of a million packs of cigarettes in a move to boost the local economy during the global financial crisis. The edict, issued by officials in Hubei province in central China, threatens to fine officials who "fail to meet their targets" or are caught smoking rival brands manufactured in neighbouring provinces.
Even local schools have been issued with a smoking quota for teachers, while one village was ordered to purchase 400 cartons of cigarettes a year for its officials, according to the local government's website.
China has 350 million smokers, about a million of whom die each year from smoking-related illnesses. Despite anti-smoking campaigns, cigarette taxes form a major component of China's annual tax-take at local level.
Local authorities in Gong'an county are taking the cigarette quota seriously and have established a "special taskforce" to enforce it.
According to a local newspaper account, a teacher from a village middle school said officials burst unannounced into the school at around 3pm one afternoon and started sifting through the ashtray and bins in the staff-room.
Three "non-compliant" cigarette butts were discovered by the "cigarette marketing consolidate team" which informed the teacher he had violated the related civil servants "cigarette usage rule" After some negotiation the school was spared a fine, but subjected to "public criticism" for "undisciplined practices".
I can't tell if this is The Onion or not...
Current Music: Mandalay -- Flowers Bloom (Alex Reece Remix) ♬