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Panda smokes draw a crowd
Updated: 2004-07-02 09:07

A good smoke is worth the wait.

Residents have been lining up every morning to buy Panda Cigarettes since they were introduced to the market on May 1.

"Some people buy the cigarettes for themselves or as a gift," said Zheng Meili, a saleswoman of Shanghai Famous Brand Tobacco & Wine Shop on Nanjing Road W. "But many of them sell the cigarettes for a higher price on the black market."

Panda cigarettes were made famous by late leader Deng Xiaoping and have been sold since 1956. The premium cigarettes can hardly be found in stores around the country before, according to Zheng.

One pack of Pandas costs 80 yuan (US$9.6), considerably higher than other brands.

Zheng said their store has an average quota of 300 packs per day and still can't meet customer demand.

"Those who don't line up as early as 8am can't get the cigarettes," Zheng said.

Lu weiqi lined up several days ago and bought two packs - the maximum most stores allow per customer.

"It's fame that attracts me and I think it must have a better taste than regular cigarettes," Lu said.

Zhu jun, a young man, was in Zheng's store and said he was considering buying Panda Cigarettes as a gift for his boss or relatives.

Shop assistants said many Panda buyers sell the cigarettes on the black market.

"The cigarettes are hugely popular among Chinese smokers," Zheng said. "Since the quota is limited, the black market will certainly be popular."

The black market price has already risen to at least 100 yuan per pack, she added.

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