香烟缭绕隐现投资良机 / Future Profits Up in Smoke?
但比较脱节的是，过去三十年，中国的香烟产量和消费量也出现了大幅增长。中国业已成为世界最大的烟草生产国及消费国。国有企业中国烟草总公司（China National Tobacco）的国际市场份额已接近三分之一，远远超过其他国际烟草业的同行。
更令人瞠目的是，世界卫生组织（the World Health Organization）在香港的高级政策顾问朱迪•麦凯称，中国有60%的男医生是烟民，吸烟率居世界之首。
世界上生产戒烟药品的主要制药公司包括葛兰素史克（Glaxo SmithKline）、强生（Johnson & Johnson）、诺华（Novartis）和辉瑞（Pfizer）等。毫无疑问，中国企业无疑也会抓住这个商机。
Future Profits Up in Smoke?
Smoking cessation will also a big niche market for Hong Kong's booming medical tourism sector, which is already primarily geared to servicing mainlanders.
Before you conclude that this is a crazy notion, consider the facts.
There is no doubt that Chinese consumers are generally smart, well-informed shoppers, who enjoy vastly greater knowledge, mobility and personal choice today than they did before the Open Door and Reform era began.
But here's the disconnect -- the past 30 years have also seen a dramatic growth in tobacco production and consumption. China has become the world's biggest producer and consumer of tobacco. State-owned China National Tobacco Corporation has nearly one-third of the global market share, far ahead of any international tobacco company.
This phenomenal growth in consumption has been enabled by consumers being poorly informed about the self-destructive health aspects of smoking, including the severe impact of second-hand smoke on people nearby, including one's children and other loved ones.
Concerns about food safety, green issues, and healthier living have become predominant features in Chinese urban consumer psychology during the past 5 years. All indications show this trend growing rather than reversing.
Ignorance about the unquestionably dire health implications of cigarette smoking cannot continue forever. The medical evidence of smoking's long-term damage to health is overwhelming, despite the protestations and lobbying of tobacco companies.
Three out of every ten cigarettes produced globally are smoked in the Chinese mainland. Out of every 100 mainland men, 67 are smokers, which is the highest ratio in the world, with the exception of Yemen and Djibouti.
Remarkably, 60% of male doctors smoke in China, which is the highest ratio in the world, according to Hong Kong-based senior policy advisor to the World Health Organization, Judith Mackay.
In the U.S., some 20% of adults, or 45.8 million people, smoke, versus some 350 million smokers in China. China claims almost one-third of the total smokers in the world.
In Hong Kong, smokers aged 15 and above number only 11.1% of the population, one of the lowest rates in the developed world. Apart from high taxes on cigarettes, Hong Kong has banned smoking in most indoor areas including bars and saunas, as well as most parks and beaches. Offenders face a fixed penalty of HK$1,500.
Based on the historical trends in many countries, cigarette consumption patterns drop dramatically over time, as consumers become better informed about health risks, and anti-smoking legislation, taxes on cigarettes, health warnings on cigarette packaging, and enforcement efforts gain momentum.
There is no reason why China should be any different. True, the tobacco industry paid an estimated RMB450 billion in taxes to the State in 2008; and some 20 million farmers depend to some extent on income from tobacco cultivation. Cigarette sales have been the nation's top source of tax revenue since 1987, and they have been growing at a double-digit pace since 2003.
At the same time, the health care costs related to the estimated 1 million deaths in China per year from smoking-related diseases will eventually be taken into account. Some experts forecast this death toll will reach 3.5 million by 2030.
As awareness grows and anti-smoking rules gain traction, a higher percentage of smokers inevitably want to quit. According to one survey in the U.S., 70% of adult smokers want to quit. Half of these have tried to quit within the past 12 months; but only 6% succeeded.
Especially for longer-term cigarette addicts, quitting is difficult. That's what drives the market for quit-smoking clinics, coaching, and medications (pills, gum, skin patches, nasal sprays, inhalers, electronic cigarettes, etc.).
According to one industry survey a few years ago, the quit-smoking market was poised to be worth US$2.6 billion globally in 2010, forecast to grow in the developing world at more than 13% per year from 2011-2015. This was assuming no big change in China's tobacco consumption patterns.
When the quit smoking trend gains momentum in China, these forecasts will look very conservative indeed.
Key global pharma players with products in the quit-smoking niche include Glaxo SmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Pfizer, etc.. Chinese companies will no doubt also seize the opportunity.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization announced in October, 2011, that Hong Kong would become host to its global center on tobacco control. The new center will bring health professionals from around the Asia-Pacific region to Hong Kong to be schooled in smoking-cessation skills.
Don't underestimate the business potential when the anti-smoking wave gains momentum in China, as it undoubtedly will, one day before too long.