Officials in China have reportedly been told to puff their way through four and a half million cigarettes a year.

Staff at local government offices in Hubei province were given the order in a move intended to set an example for the rest of the nation, according to state media.

And if they fail to smoke their way through 230,000 packs of locally-produced cigarettes, the officials could face fines.

Brands such as Huanghelou have been earmarked as part of the official quota.

"The regulation will boost the local economy via the cigarette tax," local official Chen Nianzu told the Global Times.

The measure may also be a ploy to boost sales of local cigarette brands, under pressure from competitors in neighbouring Hunan province.

Some 350 million Chinese — including more than half of all male doctors — currently smoke, with around a million dying from smoking-related diseases every year.

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