Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Puffing for Short-Term Gains

Chinese provinces are trying to find ways of stimulating the local economy and one in Gongan county in Hubei Province definitely had a creative one.

There was an order that all employees of government departments, organizations, service centres, and corporations must consume at least 23,000 cartons of cigarettes this year.

This meant some 400 cartons for most departments and state companies, and 140 cartons for each school.

The catch? They had to smoke local brands otherwise they would be fined.

The local government hopes to retrieve losses from cigarette income with the decree, said Chen Nianzu, a member of the Gongan's cigarette leadership group.

"We're guiding people to help contribute to the local economy," said Chen, according to the Hubei Daily newspaper.

But citizens immediately criticized the order in cyberspace. "Why should we use public money to pay for government officials to smoke?

"If they want a fag, they should buy their own, and put the money into social welfare, healthcare and stopping people from smoking," wrote one blogger.

China already has the world's largest smoking population at 350 million, and one million of them die of smoking-related diseases each year.

While the government does have anti-smoking campaigns, these are only half-hearted measures, as it gains so much money from tax revenues.

After the story came out, the order was rescinded.

Who thought of this silly idea in the first place, forcing people to smoke a certain amount and certain brands?

It's basically forcing someone to shorten their lifespan and quality of life by several years.

It would only further cripple the already faltering healthcare system. And is that a good way to boost the economy?

How short-sighted is that?

Or does China's 1.3 billion population mean people are expendable?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am not surprised that this is still happening in China. Governoment officials are so short sighted! Good job B.