Though many smokers around the world are used to paying a high tax premium on cigarettes to dissuade smoking, in 2009 citizens of the central-Chinese Hubei province found themselves in the opposite situation: smoke cigarettes or face a fine.
At the time, China was facing a tough economic crisis, and the majority of local taxes were gleaned from cigarette sales. So officials in the Hubei province decided the best way to boost tax revenue was to set quotas for cigarette pack sales. The Telegraph reports that local teachers were stuck with a smoking quota and “one village was ordered to purchase 400 cartons of cigarettes a year for its officials”. The goal was to both gain revenue from cigarette taxes and encourage financial prosperity for China’s local cigarette makers.
Though China is now doing better financially, there may have been some unintended consequences from this strange tax strategy: cigarette sales still account for a large chunk of tax revenue in the country, and the World Health Organization estimates China smokes one out of every three cigarettes in the world. However, China is hoping to stomp out the habit by making smoking in public illegal this year.