Cans of Fresh Air Are an Easy Sell Now That China's Toxic Smog Is So Bad

This article is from the archive of our partner .

The increasingly toxic smog in Beijing has reached a level somewhere around "choking," and now it's about to make one of China's most eccentric billionaires even richer by allowing him to peddle one of the most eccentric inventions of all time: canned fresh air. "Chen Guangbiao, whose wealth is valued at $740 million according to the Hurun Report, sells his cans of air for five yuan each," writes the Brisbane Times. "It comes with atmospheric flavours including pristine Tibet, post-industrial Taiwan and revolutionary Yan'an, the Communist Party's early base area. 

Yes, that news report is for real. Here are said cans of fresh air: 

And one more view from the top:

When The Atlantic first reported on this guy's bright hazy business idea last September, Liz Carter translated: "The label on the cans read, 'Chen Guangbiao: Good guy.'" Back then, Chen was selling the cans and planning to send profits to the military and its efforts to defend the Diaoyu Islands — the model was popular enough for the cans to sell out in a few days.

This time he's back, and China's pollution problem is much worse, making for a much easier sell. "The U.S. Embassy reported an hourly peak level of PM2.5 — tiny particulate matter that can penetrate deep into the lungs — at 526 micrograms per cubic meter, or 'beyond index,' and more than 20 times higher than World Health Organization safety levels over a 24-hour period," reports the AP. For the smog and WHO neophytes, let's put it this way: The pollution in Beijing has been so bad that a factory burned for three hours before anyone noticed, that flights are being canceled because of visibility, and, well, so bad that Chen Guangbiao is back in the air-selling business again.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.