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In China, either smoke or be fined

world Updated: May 04, 2009 11:07 IST

AFP
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Officials in a county in central China have been told to smoke nearly a quarter million packs of locally made cigarettes annually or risk being fined, state media reported on Monday.

The Gong'an county government in Hubei province has ordered its staff to puff their way through 230,000 packs of Hubei-produced cigarette brands a year, the Global Times said. Departments that fail to meet their targets will be fined, smokingaccording to the report.

"The regulation will boost the local economy via the cigarette tax," said Chen Nianzu, a member of the Gong'an cigarette market supervision team, according to the paper.

The measure could also be a ploy to aid local cigarette brands such as Huanghelou, which are under severe pressure from competitors in neighbouring Hunan province, according to the paper.

China has 350 million smokers, of whom a million die of smoking-related diseases every year.

More than half of all male doctors in China smoke, but the government is now trying harder to get them to kick the habit in order to set an example for others, state media reported recently.