Chinese county revokes rule requiring officials to smoke local cigarettes

A county in rural China has backtracked on an edict that government employees must smoke only locally made cigarettes after the order was reported in a newspaper.

Officials in Gongan county in the rural province of Hubei were encouraged to smoke over 230,000 packs of locally produced cigarettes a year, the Hubei-based Chutian Metropolis Daily reported.

The newspaper reported that officials who smoked cigarettes from outside the area would be fined, prompting an outpouring of criticism.

The Gongan government subsequently stated on its website Tuesday it has reversed the edict, but did not say why.

The posting said the rule was introduced in March to crack down on cigarette smuggling and provide aid to local brands. It also suggested that greater revenues through the cigarette tax would swell government coffers.

China is the world’s largest producer of cigarettes. There are believed to be 320 million smokers in the country.