Note: This article is from the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph.
(by Peter Foster, Telegraph.co.uk) BEIJING – 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.
The move, which flies in the face of national anti-smoking policies set in Beijing, is aimed at boosting tax revenues and protecting local manufacturers from outside competition from China’s 100 cigarette makers.
In total, officials have been ordered to puff their way through 230,000 packs of Hubei-branded cigarettes worth £400,000 [approximately $595,000].
China’s government has ordered massive government spending at both national and provincial levels to prop up the economy following plummeting demand for Chinese exports abroad. However, imposing a cigarette quota is unusual.
“The regulation will boost the local economy via the cigarette tax,” said Chen Nianzu, a member of the Gong’an cigarette market supervision team.
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.”
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1. Why have cigarette-related regulations have been imposed on local officials in Hubei province in China?
2. What is the specific purpose of these regulations?
3. What national government order has prompted the local Hubei government to impose such regulations on their local government employees?
4. Despite anti-smoking policies established in Beijing, why are local cigarette taxes of such importance to the national government?
5. How are local authorities enforcing cigarette regulations in Gong’an county?
6. What solution would you propose to the local Hubei government, as an alternative to their current smoking plan, to raise the taxes needed to pay to the national government? (NOTE: Think about the quality of life for citizens living under a communist government. Remember that it is not possible in a communist society to propose a solution to the government.)
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