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High-price cigarettes sign that gift-giving corruption is back

(China Daily) Updated: 2017-02-17 13:36

THE STATE TOBACCO MONOPOLY ADMINISTRATION issued a ban on high-price tobacco products in March 2012, forbidding sales of cigarettes labeled or actually sold for more than 1,000 yuan ($146) per 200. However, there are now shops selling cigarettes at three times that price. China Youth Daily comments:

In order to prevent its ban from becoming just a scrap of paper, the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration needs to investigate and punish those shops that are flouting the ban. If a shop that breaks the ban goes unpunished, there is danger of other shops following suit.

However, in order to solve the problem, we need to ask why the shops are selling high-price cigarettes despite the ban?

One detail in the media report that first raised the issue might answer that question. When a journalist asked for "luxurious cigarettes", a shop salesman proposed a luxuriously packed product with a price of 1,300 yuan for 200 cigarettes, saying "That's our bestseller as a gift."

His words best explain why high-price cigarettes are still made: They are given as gifts. He did not say where these gifts go, but many media outlets have found they go to the hands of powerful officials instead of to friends or relatives.

Now it becomes clear: Behind the consumption of luxurious cigarettes are corrupt officials, who get luxurious "gifts" from those who buy them and bend their power for the gift senders in return.

That applies not only to cigarettes. For long, luxurious consumption has been associated with corruption. The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China, the nation's top anti-graft watchdog, has long forbidden officials who are Party members to enjoy such kinds of luxurious consumption, yet recently the custom seems to have been revived.

The revival of luxurious cigarettes in the market is a sign of possible corruption and it is better to nip it in the bud. It is time for various levels of anti-graft watchdogs to pay attention to this.

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