Chinese interest in premium cigars is on the rise.
Although smoking in general is declining around the world, premium cigars represent a thriving sector of the tobacco market, with sales growing at 4 to 5 percent each year. Ranging in price from $20 to $200, these cigars have become a lifestyle trend that “appeals to an increasingly young demographic of smokers in fast-growing emerging markets,” according to Forbes, with the average age of smokers decreasing from 40 to 35. There are also new smokers in their teens and twenties, and female smokers now make up a little more than 10 percent of the entire cigar-smoking demographic.
Cuba’s changing position in the international market also accounts for the growth. Under the Obama administration, the United States’ relationship with the country has improved enough that its famous cigars will be sold to American consumers for the first time. Luxury cigars also continue to sell well in China, with Cuban cigars accounting for about half of all cigar imports, despite President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on ostentatious spending.
There are about 100 million cigar smokers globally, and 10 million of them are smoking luxury cigars. Of those, there are an estimated 100,000 in Macau and Hong Kong and 500,000 in China. The worldwide market for premium cigars may be worth as much as $1.5 billion a year, while high-end cigar industry overall is worth around $21 billion.
As it now stands, the world’s largest markets for premium cigars are the United States, Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland, and China, in that order. This year, China (including Hong Kong and Macau) is projected to overtake Switzerland as the fifth largest consumer of premium cigars.
High-end hotels and lounges, such as the Shangri-La in Hong Kong, are also helping the market by “catering to an expanding coterie of cigar-smoking tycoons, bankers, actors, and the like.”
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