Shanghaiist likes to smoke. We used to enjoy Davidoff, but it seems since summer we can no longer get our favourite brand (at a cheap price) in our regular cigarette store. We normally pay RMB 11 a pack — at government run stores you have to pay RMB 18 for a pack. We have no idea what happened. Some said there is something wrong with smuggling imported cigarettes out of airports now, but why this particular brand? No idea.
Alright then, so we switched to Zhongnanhai, a popular domestic brand — cheap and good taste. However, it seems this smoker has to switch again. A recent visit to our regular store showed a shortage of all kinds of Zhongnanhai. Why does it has always to be our favourite brands! Grrrrrrr…
And more important, what exactly is happening to cigarettes in Shanghai? It seems we aren’t the only ones fighting off withdrawal with whatever cigarette is available. From the only-linkable-for-one-week-at-a-time Access Asia bulletin:
The Great Shanghai Cigarette Crisis – We reported on this last week, and as of today, there is no respite. Zhongnanhai and other Beijing Cigarette Company brands remain unavailable in Shanghai. The best theory so far is that there is an element of protectionism of local brands occurring in Shanghai, combined with a desire to raise prices by Beijing Cigarette, which is being resisted by the Shanghai Price Control Bureau. Meanwhile, supplies remain uninterrupted elsewhere in the country. Many of us are reduced to smoking the large amount of Memphis cigarettes appearing in stores (a pretty awful Gallagher brand produced in China by…guess who? –Shanghai Tobacco Group!) On average, Shanghai smokers’ fingernails are 2mm shorter now than when the crisis started.
And from the previous week’s (therefore unlinkable) Access Asia briefing:
The plain facts are that Shanghai is running out of cigarettes. C-stores, fag stores, bars, they are all out. First it seemed to be a problem with the Beijing Cigarette Factory, and their best selling Zhongnanhai brands. Then the Hongtashan brand ran out. Forced to switch to other brands, people have been using up reserves of Mild Sevens, Parliament and, if forced, Marlboro. For smokers, of course, any smoke is better than no smoke. So far Double Happiness and other brands appear unaffected.
But why? We thought maybe production had stopped, but then a trip to Beijing confirmed that Beijing’s tobacconists are stock full of Zhongnanhai. So, it must be a distribution problem. If anyone knows the reason why this has happened, please let us know – we’re sure it is a bizarre story. And, as confirmed, Zhongnanhai-brand-loyalists, we’re also gasping for our favourite puff.
A Google search in Chinese offered an alternative explanation (you can see it here and here). It says every year Zhongnanhai gives different regions certain quotas, and this year’s quota for Shanghai has been met due to good sales in the city. Therefore, we have to wait until next year to buy Zhongnanhai.
Neither of the explanation makes sense to us. What kind of a way to do business is that? Anyway, we need to go count our stash of Zhongnanhai now — we only have a few packs left!