China's Marlboro Country
June 30, 2009 6:12 AM   Subscribe

 
Lab tests show that Chinese counterfeits emit higher levels of dangerous chemicals than brand-name cigarettes: 80 percent more nicotine and 130 percent more carbon monoxide, and they contain impurities that include insect eggs and human feces.

So, if you want to smoke the good shit, smoke Chinese!
posted by kozad at 6:21 AM on June 30, 2009


Oh, the poor US tobacco companies!
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:45 AM on June 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


On a more local scale, here's a study on U.S. interstate cigarette smuggling, with some states at 30% of consumed cigs being smuggled. I believe that state-to-state tax differences are even higher now compared to when those data were collected, so rates are probably higher now.
posted by exogenous at 6:47 AM on June 30, 2009


The dirty "low-grade machine" in the slideshow is just a die-cutter for making the boxes, and it's no dirtier than anything you would find in a run-down print shop. It's not used for processing tobacco, so -2 points for misleading photojournalist.

But yeah, smoking is awful. But I don't get the concern over the impurities. It's not like the smoking of bug eggs and human crap have been linked to cancer. I doubt that the clinical trials have been done on that. It sort of reminds me of some friends who smoked American Spirits because they were "cleaner". Same carcinogen, different marketing.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 6:53 AM on June 30, 2009


Lab tests show that Chinese counterfeits emit higher levels of dangerous chemicals than brand-name cigarettes: 80 percent more nicotine and 130 percent more carbon monoxide, and they contain impurities that include insect eggs and human feces.

As for impurities: a Mongolian friend once mentioned to me that back home in Inner Mongolia, people used to smoke rabbit turds. Apparently passage through the rabbit imparted a mellow flavor to the grass, I guess the same way Kopi Luwak coffee is tempered by its journey from one end of the civet cat to the other.
posted by bokane at 6:55 AM on June 30, 2009


The equipment used by counterfeiters ranges from $3 million state-of-the-art machines to low-grade ones like these.

Pretty sure that's a die-cutter, you know, for packaging. It's not like they're using it to cut the goddamn cigarettes. Fuckin' Slate.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:03 AM on June 30, 2009


Hmmm. I'm not a daily smoker, but "fakety fake fake" could be one reason 90% of the cigarettes I've bought in Mexico have tasted very different, and not at all in a good way.

Never thought to blame the Chinese until reading this article.
posted by resurrexit at 7:03 AM on June 30, 2009


There are three kinds of cigarettes available in China: Chinese brands, smuggled genuine western brands and counterfeit western brands.

The worst of the bunch, by far, are the western counterfeits.
posted by syzygy at 7:09 AM on June 30, 2009


Dammit, kuuj.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:17 AM on June 30, 2009


This is awful. If we can't trust cigarettes to be safe, what's next?
posted by rokusan at 7:18 AM on June 30, 2009 [11 favorites]


Oh, the poor US tobacco companies!
I said a quiet prayer for them
posted by mattoxic at 7:27 AM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


They even do knock-off pandas now.
posted by Abiezer at 7:27 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, the poor US tobacco companies!

Yes, those poor helpless little creatures.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:39 AM on June 30, 2009


Hmmm. I'm not a daily smoker, but "fakety fake fake" could be one reason 90% of the cigarettes I've bought in Mexico have tasted very different, and not at all in a good way.

More likely "stalety stale stale" - the same reason 90% of the cigarettes you buy at discount smoke shops in the states taste like ass. Big chain stores & wholesalers unload unload their old smokes to discounters both here & in nearby countries, passing the savings on to you!
posted by item at 7:51 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Passing the shavings on, more like!
posted by Abiezer at 7:57 AM on June 30, 2009


Apparently passage through the rabbit imparted a mellow flavor to the grass, I guess the same way Kopi Luwak coffee is tempered by its journey from one end of the civet cat to the other.

Reminds me of a scene from the film The Crossing:

Soldier #1: What are you smoking?
Soldier #2: Dried cow dung.
Soldier #1: What's it taste like?
Soldier #2: Shit.
posted by bwg at 7:59 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I know this is one of those times when people will think I'm kidding and I'm really not. Maybe the answer to some of our economic woes here in the United States is to really develop some of our black market opportunities here.

Or decriminalize some of our black market.

Or no, criminalize our own tobacco industry. Marlboro could start making packaging with faux Chinese characters and we could change the wording of our warnings to something more suspicious like: For Great Justice, Don't Inhale. HaHa, YEAH! Take that Commie!!!
posted by SinisterPurpose at 7:59 AM on June 30, 2009


The great state of Vermont China will not apologize for its cheese cigarettes.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:13 AM on June 30, 2009


Lab tests show that Chinese counterfeits emit higher levels of dangerous chemicals than brand-name cigarettes: 80 percent more nicotine and 130 percent more carbon monoxide, and they contain impurities that include insect eggs and human feces. [citation needed]

No, seriously, though. Who conducted these lab tests? And human feces? How did human fecal matter end up in cigarettes? Do the factory employees regularly poop in the tobacco? I need to know.

And another question: If the market is so flooded with counterfeit cigarettes, where are they being sold? How do I know I'm getting "genuine" cancer sticks that are costing me ten dollars a pack? (New York, my friends. New York. Down in New Orleans I used to buy 'em for $3 a pack.)
posted by brina at 8:23 AM on June 30, 2009


"Night soil" (i.e. the shite dug out from your toilet) is used as fertiliser in lots of places in rural China. Smoking the good shit!
posted by Abiezer at 9:02 AM on June 30, 2009


One manufacturer built a factory that masqueraded as a military compound, complete with 20 laborers—dressed in castoff army uniforms—who would conduct faux-military drills and sing the national anthem in the yard every morning. Other cigarette-making machines have been hidden on ships, inside concrete bunkers, and even under a lake.

Under a LAKE? Seems like if you go to the trouble of building an evil lair under a lake you'd do more with it than just make knockoff cowboy killers. I mean, do the workers all wear matching uniforms and are there a lot of big red buttons around? Does the owner twirl his moustache and carry a cat? "It is too late for you, Mr. Bond! Here, smoke this Benson & Hedges Menthol Light! Bwaa ha ha ha - it will be a slow death."
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:25 AM on June 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


"I used to be real naive about drugs. A guy came backstage and said 'hey man, I got some good shit? You want to smoke some shit?' I said, 'I don't want any marijuana.' 'Marijuana? This is shit. I'm smoking my own shit.'"

-Steve Martin
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:36 AM on June 30, 2009


in Inner Mongolia, people used to smoke rabbit turds

Good to know.
In the past I've grown my own Nicotiana rustica and smoking it is . . . interesting. If you're familiar with how inhaling a menthol cigarette feels in your lungs, that's how Nicotiana rustica feels in my brain. Like opening a window and airing out your skull.
Sorry if this is off-topic
posted by Restless Day at 9:45 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Great, 1st this article made me want a smoke. Now, I want one of them knock-off pandas instead.
posted by winks007 at 10:37 AM on June 30, 2009


If you're out of genuine cancer sticks and you don't have a rabbit handy (eww!) , there's no need to smoke Chinese counterfeit coffin nails - you can roll your own using black tea leaves and strips of newspaper. At least, that's what our Fijian crew did when they ran out of the real thing after several weeks at sea. They seemed to enjoy them almost as much as the bona fide article.

Then again, these guys were pretty typical merchant seamen - no nonsense when there was work to be done, all nonsense when there wasn't - and I wouldn't put it past them to take a long drag and ham up the bliss just to pull our collective leg. Of course, the moment we got into port they bundled a crewman into the dinghy to go ashore and buy real cigarettes. Nevertheless, if you find yourself at sea with nary a smoke in sight, go raid the galley.
posted by Quietgal at 10:54 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thinking about Chinese smoking statistics is like trying to think about the limits of space.

The Terrible Secret of Chinese Smoking Statistics.
posted by tastydonuts at 11:07 AM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Now, I want one of them knock-off pandas instead.

DIY Method - Things you'll need:

1 gallon - hydrogen peroxide
1 container - Manic Panic Sabbath Black hair dye (or similar)
1 - Chow Chow dog
posted by Pollomacho at 11:24 AM on June 30, 2009


I really like this Chinese PSA about smoking, because it's not like "Don't smoke around your kids you'll set a bad example!" but more like "If you must smoke, go out on the balcony so your kid doesn't breathe your poison."

And then there was this one, from around the time of the Olypmics: Support the Olympics and love your country by observing the smoking ban.

Anyways, I remember seeing on Discovery channel that there's a type of tobacco cultivated in China that's usually smoked through these great big bamboo waterpipes. Now that looked like smoking in style.

I've tried the Turkish method - I think we even have a packet of molasses apple around here somewhere - but inhaling the smoke of a smoldering hunk of charcoal didn't really do it for me.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:51 AM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


The PSA about smoking and surfing the 'Net was less sophisticated.
posted by Abiezer at 12:34 PM on June 30, 2009


Beware counterfeit cigarettes, as you might contract counterfeit cancer. Which, surprisingly, is worse than the real thing.
posted by discountfortunecookie at 1:01 PM on June 30, 2009


$10 a pack! An old friend told me the her dad quit smoking the day cigarettes went from 2 packs for a quarter to 15¢ a pack. But all hail the smokers. Without them, we would all have to pay higher taxes.
posted by Cranberry at 2:31 PM on June 30, 2009


In the past I've grown my own Nicotiana rustica and smoking it is . . . interesting.

I did this one summer also. The plant grew well in a container on a sunny back porch. After a couple of months I harvested the large green leaves and hung them in a warm, dry closet to cure. The leaves turned a light tan color after curing and smelled wonderfully exotic. Rolling and smoking them was easy. I'm not a frequent tobacco smoker, but there is at least one regular tobacco smoker in Ohio who has decided to grow his own.
posted by telstar at 3:41 PM on June 30, 2009


Without them, we would all have to pay higher taxes.

Well, don't get too used to it. Since one of the stated goals of the new FDA legislation was that they could gradually change the composition of cigarettes to make them taste worse (and they're already banning flavoring due to scaremongering), those of us who still smoke will be getting them on the black market soon enough (like weed and other drugs). So that tax revenue won't last long --- smokers will either quit or go to the black market (which is already happening in places like New York).
posted by wildcrdj at 5:48 PM on June 30, 2009


They even do knock-off pandas now.

That's better than Thailand's version of a panda. I mean, seriously, who do they think they're gonna fool?
posted by five fresh fish at 8:11 PM on June 30, 2009


But for U.S. consumers, inhaling the knockoff cigarettes may do even more damage than their genuine counterparts.

Happily, for people outside of the US, the counterfeits repair lung damage and also wash the dishes.

...interesting issue; shitful article.
posted by pompomtom at 11:16 PM on June 30, 2009


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