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Cigarette decree to boost the economy

A county government in central China's Hubei Province has sparked a public outcry for drafting a decree ordering government departments and schools to buy locally made cigarettes.

The Wuhan-based ChuTian Metropolis Daily said the Gong'an County government was implementing the decree to boost the regional economy.

The law orders all local government departments, organizations, service centers and corporations to consume at least 23,000 cartons of cigarettes this year - 400 cartons for most departments and corporations and 140 cartons for each school.

The government will help purchase the cigarettes, all locally made. About 4 million yuan (US$586,485.45) is expected to be spent on the plan with each carton priced at 170 yuan.

A monthly work plan has to be produced by each organization listing the consumption rate and the government will check these figures. Departments failing to make the quota will have their budgets cut, according to the government.

Organizations not using government-approved cigarettes will be fined 1,000 yuan.

Zhangtiansi Middle School has already found itself in trouble.

According to teachers there, during an inspection of the school on April 2, two government officials discovered three cigarette butts which were not locally produced.

After negotiations, the officials agreed not to fine the school but they published details of the case throughout the town.

The county government intended to retrieve losses from cigarette income tax with the decree, according to Chen Nianzu, a member of Gong'an's cigarette leadership group.

"We're guiding people to help contribute to the local economy," he said.

The penalties suggested in the law are only to help regulate departments and corporations, and so far no fines have been imposed, a publicity officer with Gong'an said.


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