China Made Its Citizens Smoke 10 Million Cigarettes

Under what circumstances would you ever feel forced to smoke a bunch of cigarettes? While being peer pressured behind the bleachers? Sure. When your dad then catches you and makes you smoke the whole pack? Absolutely. Because your local economy is having a bad year and you have to make up the numbers one puff at a time? Only if you live in China.

In 2009, the world was reeling from the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis, as explained to most people by Margot Robbie in a bathtub.

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That ripple effect went as far as the Hubei province in central China, whose local industries were struggling to hit their financial targets. To counteract this downturn, officials decided to flood the market with China's greatest asset: smokers. Smoking is such a big business in China that it produces 42% of the world's finest, cheapest cigarettes, which effortlessly kill over a million Chinese a year from smoking-related illnesses and a hundred thousand from second-hand smoke alone.

And Hubei wanted to up those numbers -- all across the board. To supplement the regional economy, its government gave the order to all of its civil servants: Smoke 'em if you got 'em. Under threat of budget cuts, Civil servants were forced by decree to collectively cough up half a million dollars for nearly a quarter-million packs of local smokes every year. That's roughly four hundred cartons for every single department, including park rangers, doctors, and even teachers.  

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At least they could hand them out to the cool kids behind the bike shed. 
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The rule was heavily enforced as well. Any government workers caught smoking non-Hubei-produced cigarettes (foreign or domestic, it did not matter) would face fines or even firings. One teacher, after a "cigarette marketing consolidate team," had investigated his stubbed out cigarette butts and had found three foreign ones, got their school reprimanded by the Hubei government for "undisciplined practices." Fortunately for civil servants who didn't want to take one for the team, the "cigarette usage rule" was as short-lived as a government-mandated smoker. Hubei officials quickly saw their ambitions become ash in their mouths as the public started complaining of the stench of this acrid cloud of corruption, and the plan went up in smoke within the year.

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