Saturday 1 November 2014

Canned-air souvenir craze gains momentum

Published 08/05/2014 | 02:30

BEIJING, CHINA - JANUARY 30:  (CHINA OUT) Chen Guangbiao (R), Chairman of Jiangsu Huangpu Recycling Resources Co., Ltd, presents his company's product canned fresh air at Beijing Financial Street on January 30, 2013 in Beijing, China. Chen is known for his high-profile charity activities. Heavy fog has been lingering in central and eastern China since Tuesday afternoon, disturbing the traffic and worsening air pollution.  (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - JANUARY 30: (CHINA OUT) Chen Guangbiao (R), Chairman of Jiangsu Huangpu Recycling Resources Co., Ltd, presents his company's product canned fresh air at Beijing Financial Street on January 30, 2013 in Beijing, China. Chen is known for his high-profile charity activities. Heavy fog has been lingering in central and eastern China since Tuesday afternoon, disturbing the traffic and worsening air pollution. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)

Guizou's tourism bureau announced in March that canned air would soon be offered to tourists as souvenirs, following a joke by President Xi Jinping that the air in the Beijing province was comparatively "so pure it should be put up for sale".

In 2012, millionaire Chen Guangbiao sold canned air from the Taiwan and Jiangxi province's Jinggang Mountain, which were printed with his face and the words "good person". These retailed at the equivalent of 60c each.

Greenpeace reported that the 10th most polluted city in China, Zhengzhou, launched a campaign in which breaths of fresh mountain air were offered to residents of the city through oxygen masks. 2,000 cans of air were also reportedly handed out to tourists on Laojun Mountain in an effort to boost tourism. The free cans were so popular the stock was depleted in less than twenty minutes.

In March, artist Liang Kegang sold a small jar of Provençal air from France at an auction in Beijing, where it fetched the equivalent of $840, despite his claim that "Air should be the most valueless commodity, free to breathe for any vagrant or beggar."

The smog in Northern China has been linked to an increase in asthma and lowered life expectancy.

Air purifiers are often out of the reach of residents, costing up to and over $1,100. Attempts are being made to resolve the problem, including a ban of outdoor grilling subject to a fine of almost $3,200, which would strangle the street-side food stall business. 500 units were destroyed during a crackdown on a more lenient law in 2013 but provided a relief of only a few days for the cities. Law enforcement agencies have acknowledged that it is "likely" that business and customers will push back against the ban and implementation will be "difficult" as a result.

Over $15 billion was spent before the 2008 Beijing Olympics to tackle the issue of declining air quality.

First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday's Irish Independent
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