China - smoke more to kick-start the economy..

May 5, 2009 - In an effort to kick-start the Chinese economy, Communist Party officials are being asked to do their bit – by smoking. In Hubei province's Gongan County, the order has come down from above that local government staff must consume 23,000 cartons of locally made cigarettes every year, which translates into a lung-busting 400 cartons for most council departments, and 140 cartons for each school.

If the bureaucrats and civil servants fail to smoke the required amount, their department risks losing out on its full share of the smoking allowance of four million yuan (£392,000, 437,133EURO, 586,622US). Gongan County hopes to retrieve losses from cigarette income tax with the decree, said Chen Nianzu, of the council's cigarette market supervision team. "We are guiding people to help contribute to the local economy," he told The Hubei Daily. Under the measures, workers who do not puff local brands can be fined.

The patriotic smoking drive follows pressure on party officials in Hefei province earlier this year to buy flats to keep the property market afloat.

China has 350 million smokers and million people die of smoking-related diseases every year. The government has introduced no-smoking areas and child education campaigns to try to get people to give up the habit.

Reference: Have a smoke and help save the economy, China tells party officials by Clifford Coonan in Beijing, The Independent, 5/5/2009.