A local government in central China has backed down on an order which asked civil servants to smoke more to help boost the regional economy, the Beijing News reported Tuesday.
The Gong'an County government of Hubei province found itself at the center of public outrage after it demanded local officials to consume up to 23,000 packs of locally-produced cigarettes annually, worth 4 million yuan (US$588,235), using public money.
Each office under its jurisdiction received a quota and would face a fine if they failed to meet the target, or if found buying cigarettes produced by other provinces.
An order which asked civil servants to smoke more locally-produced cigarettes issued by a county government in central China's Hubei province has triggered public outrage and media criticism. [file photo]
The order made headlines in major newspapers around the world after being made public, triggering waves of criticism that it was a complete waste of public money.
Local officials defended their decision, saying the directive was misinterpreted.
The original aim, they say, was not to encourage officials to smoke more, but to give more support to the local tobacco industry. The county government can impose duty on sales of cigarettes produced locally.
Under growing public pressure, the county government retreated, announcing a removal of the order on its website on May 4. "The matter is now under review," it said.
China now has more than 350 million smokers, more than 26 percent of its total population. The country is the world's largest cigarette market, with an annual sale of two trillion cigarettes.