Marketplace Scratch Pad

You will take a smoke break!

Scott Jagow May 5, 2009

A county in China’s Hubei province came up with an ingenious plan for mitigating the tax drain of cigarette smuggling and counterfeiting. It told county employees, including teachers, they had to smoke 230,000 packs of cigarettes a year. Local brands, of course.

The edict came down last month, but today, the Gong’An county government decided to back off from the plan. Apparently, the public criticism was pretty severe, as you might imagine from reading this:

Under the earlier regulation, departments needed to include in their budgets the purchase of $500,000 worth of locally made cigarettes. Those found smoking international brands or brands from other provinces could be fined or fired from their jobs.

The plan was to be closely monitored, and if bureaucrats and state employees failed to consume the required amount (400 cartons for most departments), their budgets would be cut.

But even though the county has decided not to pursue this strategy, it still plans to investigate, in all seriousness, whether employees are smoking the wrong kind of cigarettes.

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