Planet China

Blowing smoke


Friendly advice: an ashtray spotted earlier this month by WiC in a hotel in the third-tier city of Weifang in Shandong province

Getting China to quit smoking is a hard task. One of the nation’s most revered leaders, Deng Xiaoping, was a prolific chain smoker and he died at the age of 92, leaving many unconvinced by warnings that cigarettes are bad for your health.

In Shengzhou, a small town in Zhejiang province, rather than trying to get people to give up, the local council has encouraged them to clean up after themselves.

Last month it launched a “butts for tissues” campaign, whereby citizens could go to the sanitation department’s offices and exchange 50 cigarette butts for a pack of tissues. But Shengzhou halted the policy last week after a cumulative 4.8 million cigarette ends had been exchanged in just under a month (and the council presumably ran out of tissues). On its busiest day the centre collected over 300,000 butts, with one person setting the individual record by depositing 9,100 of them.

For a town of only 700,000, these numbers seemed suspicious, although reports suggest there exists an exceptionally tenacious elderly population, with a taste for free tissues. Originally, the policy asked for locals to pick up discarded cigarettes from the street, but as the streets were quickly picked clean, the seniors became more creative. One shop owner told a reporter how a man had come in and rooted through her trash, looking for stubbs, while others were even asking their out-of-town relatives to bring cigarette butts over for them. And all for a pack of tissues….

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