Smoke signals

Updated: 2015-01-16 08:22

By Deng Zhangyu(China Daily)

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Smoke signals

Chen Xiaodong shares a special tobacco made by himself with his friend Zhang Xingyu in a pipe and cigar club on the ground floor of the Peninsula Hotel in Beijing. [Photo by Jiang Dong/China Daily]

In a nation where cigarettes are king, pipes are attracting a growing market of affluent tobacco lovers who seek a more stylish - and healthier - lifestyle, Deng Zhangyu reports.

Chen Xiaodong sits on a leather chair at a pipe store in Beijing with a handmade Italian tobacco pipe in his mouth. His friend, a beginner, is enjoying his first pipe smoke under the salesman's guidance, with a special tobacco blend made by Chen, who savors every chance to introduce friends to the "little toy" from the West.

The 28-year-old has bought more than 100 tobacco pipes. He uses all of them.

"When I buy a pipe for myself, I have to buy a Gucci bag for my wife to play fair," jokes Chen.

Each time he travels to a city outside China, his first task is to find a pipe store, either to select a pipe for himself or to bring one back for a friend.

"Tobacco pipes have gained popularity in China in the last decade. You can find pipe stores even in second- and third-tier cities now, " says the young pipe-lover.

Deeply rooted in US and European culture, pipes are still fairly novel to Chinese. Twenty years ago in China, they were rarely found outside markets that sold foreign goods. As more Chinese people change their smoking habits as they develop more affluent lifestyles, Western pipe culture is spreading quickly in China.

There are about 2,700 stores selling pipes on Taobao, China's biggest e-commerce platform, while more European pipe brands are targeting the market, says Sun Jing, deputy general manager of Ligero Pipe & Cigar House. Ligero owns five stores in several cities and plans to open more.

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