By Jason Quincy
Science and Health Correspondent
TIANJIN (China Daily Show) – “When I’m away from Beijing, working in Europe, sometimes I’ll wake up in a strange hotel room,” said traveling salesman Xin Xiaobao, 25. “The air smells of lavender and there’s no mucus on my pillow. It just feels weird.”
Xin’s discomfort is not unusual – in fact, he is part of a growing market of young Chinese men working abroad, lonely and often missing the motherland. They are being targeted for a new campaign by tobacco chiefs: the “Chinair” cigarette.
The China National Tobacco Corporation’s (CNTC) Chinair brand hit the market last week, and the gimmick is already turning the heads – and stomachs – of travelers everywhere.
Chinair cigarettes mimic the average air quality in Chinese cities, and are currently available in Beijing (Lights) and Tianjin Most Superior Motherland (Full Flavor).
“We used real flavors to make these innovative cigarettes,” says CNCT marketing executive Hu Mintao. “Chinair Beijing is the more popular of the two current flavors. The filters are made with a compound of asbestos and fiberglass, and silver iodide is added to give a taste of recently seeded clouds.”
For some lucky buyers, actual factory workers’ sweat is sealed into the packet during the packaging process.
While less popular, Chinair Tianjin already has a strong following among expats of cities such as Linfeng, Wuhan and Shenyang. The Chinair Tianjin version is not as exotic as the Beijing version, Hu explained, mainly containing coal dust with just a hint of industrial waste.
The new cigarette is doing especially well in airports, where weary travelers stumble into duty-free shops, craving any air that isn’t heady with jet fuel.
Another major selling point is that these new smokes may have a lowered risk of cancer than the average cigarette.
“These cigarettes are still dangerous, but no more dangerous than breathing the air in Beijing or Tianjin,” said Wo Lin Ma, chief medical officer at CNTC. “It is so similar to the air quality in these major cities that, for the smokers there, it could actually be a viable quitting mechanism.”
Even though it’s still early days, the CNTC has a bright future planned for the new product. A Chinair Wuhan (Menthol) brand is in the works, though Hu declined to divulge how the flavor is achieved.
But he hinted that the CNTC may not be limiting its flavors to domestic cities in future. A chance to give Chinese smokers a taste of the exotic, with flavors from New Deli and Mexico City, is a “distinct possibility.”
“It’s like I never left,” said returned expat Justin Morton, 47, who picked up a pack of Chinair Beijings at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. “Somehow it has that special Beijing feel. It’s almost painful.”
And Chinese expats agree as well.
“Now I’m really in flavor country!” wheezed Xin Xiaobao from his latest bed – this time, in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital’s cancer ward.
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