Chinese officials obliged to smoke 4.6m snouts
Obvious market niche for Mao's little red matchbook
Updated The Chinese county of Gong'an has launched a novel way of injecting funds into local coffers: it is ordering officials and teachers to smoke only the homegrown Hubei brand of cigarettes.
Those who fail to inhale and help work their way through the 230,000 packets of Hubei gaspers produced annually - and instead light up brands from other provinces or foreign cancer sticks - may be fined or even sacked, the BBC reports.
Hubei is apparently feeling the heat from rival companies, especially those from neighbouring Hunan province. Chen Nianzu, a "member of the cigarette market supervision team in Gong'an county, Hubei province", explained to the Global Times: "The regulation will boost the local economy via the cigarette tax."
The Beeb notes that around 350 million people in China smoke, including "more than half of all male doctors", and many people are blissfully unaware of the health implications.
The powers that be have made some effort to clear the nicotine-laden fug hanging over China, and "recently started encouraging smokers to kick the habit". Beijing, the BBC notes, went as far as to ban smoking in Beijing's public buildings prior to the 2008 Olympic games. ®
The BBC is now reporting a U-turn following unsurprising local press flack over the order. The gov's website declared this afternoon that the authorities had "decided to remove this edict".
Our 4.6m snout figure is based on the entirely uninformed assumption that Hubei ciggies comes in packs of 20. We're happy to be corrected on that point by a suitably qualified expert.