Tobacco opening up China

The Chinese tobacco giant Hongta has just begun producing West-branded cigarettes in China, as part of a deal with the Imperial Tobacco Group, the world's fourth largest tobacco company. Imperial will be investing $8.4m a year in China for the next 10 years and is aiming to sell 10m West cigarettes every year. This is a tiny amount when one considers that the Chinese smoke 1.7 trillion cigarettes a year but it is a sign that the markets are beginning to open up. West cigarettes will be on sale in Shanghai and in the south-western city of Kunming, home of Hongta.

British American Tobacco and Gallaher (Benson & Hedges) also have deals with Chinese manufacturers but sales of the cigarettes have yet to begin. Marlboro remains the biggest foreign company active in China, a key market for the tobacco companies in the future and thus an important target for F1.

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