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Smokers are welcome to China

6 May 2009 No Comment
Chinese pick up smoking from an early age. Like this 3-year-old?

Chinese pick up smoking from an early age. Like this 3-year-old?

If you are worried about shrinking public space for smoking, move over to China. The Communist government in Gongan county in Central China has turned smoker friendly. Just to mop up more revenue. ‘Smoke or face fine’ is the decree to government employees.

More than 350 million people smoke in Gongan. One million of them die of smoking-related diseases every year.

The ‘puff more’ dictum has something to do with inter- county tax structures. Gongan cannot levy taxes on cigarettes from neighbouring Hunan province, which are preferred by the locals. Hunan cigarettes, particularly, the brand, Furong Wang, are of the highest quality in China.

Local plant at Hubei produces some 230,000 packs. And has some good brands like Huanghelou. Yet these have few takers.  In fact, 40 per cent of the cigarettes offered at official receptions are Hunan imports.

‘Concerned about a fall in its tax take as smokers turned away from locally produced cigarettes Gongan authorities decided to set a smoking target to encourage consumption’, a media report from Beijing says. Gongan county has the lowest tax revenues from cigarettes in the region.

Health concerns? My foot, when money is what matters to the state treasury.  But faced with an uproar, the authorities have put the order on hold for a while.

China is the world’s largest tobacco market. The cigarette sales are estimated to be over two trillion cigarettes very year.

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