High-price ci­garettes sign that gift-giv­ing cor­rup­tion is back

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT - THE STATE TOBACCO MO­NOP­OLY AD­MIN­IS­TRA­TION

is­sued a ban on high-price tobacco prod­ucts in March 2012, for­bid­ding sales of ci­garettes la­beled or ac­tu­ally sold for more than 1,000 yuan ($146) per 200. How­ever, there are now shops sell­ing ci­garettes at three times that price. China Youth Daily com­ments:

In or­der to pre­vent its ban from be­com­ing just a scrap of pa­per, the State Tobacco Mo­nop­oly Ad­min­is­tra­tion needs to in­ves­ti­gate and pun­ish those shops that are flout­ing the ban. If a shop that breaks the ban goes un­pun­ished, there is dan­ger of other shops fol­low­ing suit.

How­ever, in or­der to solve the prob­lem, we need to ask why the shops are sell­ing high-price ci­garettes de­spite the ban?

One de­tail in the me­dia re­port that first raised the is­sue might an­swer that ques­tion. When a jour­nal­ist asked for “lux­u­ri­ous ci­garettes”, a shop sales­man pro­posed a lux­u­ri­ously packed prod­uct with a price of 1,300 yuan for 200 ci­garettes, say­ing “That’s our best­seller as a gift.”

His words best ex­plain why high-price ci­garettes are still made: They are given as gifts. He did not say where th­ese gifts go, but many me­dia out­lets have found they

go to the hands of pow­er­ful of­fi­cials in­stead of to friends or rel­a­tives.

Now it be­comes clear: Be­hind the con­sump­tion of lux­u­ri­ous ci­garettes are cor­rupt of­fi­cials, who get lux­u­ri­ous “gifts” from those who buy them and bend their power for the gift senders in re­turn.

That ap­plies not only to ci­garettes. For long, lux­u­ri­ous con­sump­tion has been associated with cor­rup­tion. The Cen­tral Com­mis­sion for Dis­ci­pline In­spec­tion of the Com­mu­nist Party of China, the nation’s top anti­graft watch­dog, has long for­bid­den of­fi­cials who are Party mem­bers to en­joy such kinds of lux­u­ri­ous con­sump­tion, yet re­cently the cus­tom seems to have been re­vived.

The re­vival of lux­u­ri­ous ci­garettes in the mar­ket is a sign of pos­si­ble cor­rup­tion and it is bet­ter to nip it in the bud. It is time for var­i­ous lev­els of anti-graft watch­dogs to pay at­ten­tion to this.

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