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Campaign to clear Chinese city of cigarette butts called off after proving too successful

A city government in eastern China has halted a campaign in which it gave out tissues to residents who picked up cigarette butts after it attracted people and used cigarettes from other cities, mainland media reports.

A leading group focusing on building Shengzhou in Zhejiang province into a national clean city launched the campaign in late September, encouraging residents to collect cigarette butts around the city and exchange them for tissues from the local sanitation department, news portal Thepaper.cn reported.

But the authority quickly encountered problems when so many residents took part in the activity it had to cut short the campaign, which had been planned to last for one month.

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An unnamed official with the local sanitation administration was quoted as saying they received more than 4.8 million cigarette butts and gave out nearly 100,000 packets of tissues during the event.

He said one resident even took 9,100 butts to the office one day and the participants, most of them elderly people, packed the office after the National Day holiday.

The official also said most of the butts turned in appeared clean, making it unlikely they were picked up off the ground in public places, and some residents asked their relatives to collect butts in neighbouring cities.

The group issued a notice on Monday last week calling a halt to the campaign, saying an increasing number of residents from neighbouring counties were exchanging butts for tissues, making the event lose its original purpose.