Vice Squad
Thursday, May 27, 2004
Panda Cigarette Craze

What do you get when you cross one of those cuddly bear-like (but raccoon-related) bamboo-eating cuties with a highly addictive drug? A Panda cigarette craze, of course. The cigarettes are made in China, where the Panda brand was famously favored by Deng Xiaoping. Oddly, in the former workers' paradise [It's still officially a workers' paradise -- ed.], the Panda brand was ONLY available to Deng and a a handful of high-ranking officials: the production run was but hundreds of packs per year. Creeping capitalism now has extended the availability of Pandas to the lumpen, er, the hoi polloi. Typical cigarettes manufactured in China cost some 20 cents per pack, whereas Pandas go for....almost $10 per pack. And even at those prices, folks are lining up overnight to purchase them.

This information comes from an article by James T. Areddy that appeared on the front page of yesterday's Wall Street Journal. Here's an excerpt:

"Few Panda buyers smoke the cigarettes they acquire. They prefer to give them to friends or to superiors and officials whom they wish to influence or thank. One Shanghai internist says he regularly receives gifts of Panda cigarettes from grateful patients, even though he is a nonsmoker." The cigarettes are so valuable, maybe ne'er-do-wells will try to pawn off some fake Pandas to you, no? Not to worry: current Pandas "feature six anticounterfeiting measures, including a logo that appears on the filter when the cigarette is lit and colors on the box that change under infrared light."

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