(Yicai Global) June. 28 -- China's tobacco companies saw combined profits slump 24 percent to CNY46.67 billion (USD7.02 billion) in the January-May period from a year earlier because of a slowing economy and new health regulations.
China is the biggest consumer market for tobacco products, accounting for some 45 percent of all cigarettes smoked worldwide, but softening economic growth has coupled with a government health drive to put a damper on sales. Last year, sales of cigarettes fell for the first time since 2000, dropping 2.36 percent.
Profits from tobacco product sales plunged 57.2 percent this May, 34.5 percentage points more than in April.
Mr. Ling Chengxing, director of the State Tobacco Monopoly Bureau, said at a recent meeting that the country's tobacco industry aims for total taxable income of CNY1.22 trillion this year, an increase of CNY80 billion.
Smokers account for almost 28 percent of China's population, with men far outnumbering women. Over half of China's adult male population smokes, with some one million dying every year from tobacco-related illnesses, according to the World Health Organization. The Lancet medical journal predicts that at current rates a third of young Chinese men will die of smoking-related diseases.
A year ago, Beijing introduced the "strictest regulations ever on smoking in China," banning the habit in public places, public transport, and indoor workplaces, as well as stipulating severe penalties for violations. Amended advertising standards came into force last September, banning cigarette ads in the media and in outdoor and indoor public spaces, and any form of tobacco advertising aimed at juveniles.