Introduction to Tim Hatzis 天凯: The Nicotine Pouch Market and China Growth Potential

The Nicotine Pouch Market Sep 22, 2020

At Nicotine Freak we believe in a smoke free world. The dangers of smoking tobacco are well known by all of us, otherwise you would not be reading this. Long gone are the days when good doctors smoked Camels. Despite a recently well-publicised and frequently cited Public Health England report suggesting vaping is 95% safer than smoking, issues such as death and serious injury from exploding batteries, “popcorn lungs”, a rapid uptake among young people (the tobacco gateway) and a myriad of potential long-term impacts on health cannot be ignored and simply brushed aside.

I was a slave to cigarettes for over 15 years – I loved it too – at least I thought I did.

Yeah, I had a stop for one and took the ugliest photograph ever on Unsplash ;)
Photo by Paweł Czerwiński / Unsplash

Seven years of my ‘invincible’ twenties were spent running a trading company in China where I learned to speak Mandarin and the Chinese way of doing things, shipped goods to markets all over the world and grew a fantastic network of business partners and friends. For all the great experiences I had in the world’s 2nd largest economy, the country suffers from a major plague – and it is not Corona Virus. It is far more serious than that. It is a public health crisis of epic proportions of which I became part of and lived.

China is a place where cigarette culture is burned into the national psyche. You can smoke almost anywhere – I was witness to people (myself included) casually sparking up without the slightest concern in taxis, restaurants and bars, even in elevators and shopping malls. Priced at a mere pittance, sometimes less than $1 USD a pack, cigarettes are handed out like candy, more a way of saying hello to a passing stranger and showing courtesy, like a casual ‘how are you doing?’ in the west. The chances of someone coming up to ask “please can I buy a cigarette from you?” were zero. It would have been ridiculous. The taxi driver, the barman and even policemen were rushing to part ways with a cancer stick for my own enjoyment. It was a bonding experience. With a strong When In Rome mentality, I gladly joined in the fun, and took the expression of smoking like a chimney to its absolute extreme.

Photo by Free To Use Sounds / Unsplash

I arrived in China in 2012, the year Mr Xi came to power. By 2015, prevalence of smoking in China was 27.7% and growing rapidly according to official and tenuous statistics, standing at 52.1% among men and 2.7% among women (damn the patriarchy!). This figure represents over 320 million human souls. Let that sink in for a moment. A vast pool of humanity, equivalent to the entire population of the United States smokes in China. The Chinese government has taken steps to tackle the problem and at the time of writing at least 20 major cities are implementing smoke free laws and introducing new services to help people kick the habit. Furthermore, the much welcomed 2030 Healthy China initiative has been established, with the aim of reducing smoking rates to 20%. A commendable yet rather ambitious goal. Even achieving this by 2030 would put China far behind the smoking rates of its friends in the western world.

After some time living this way, in about 2015, I was really feeling the undeniable toxic bite of cigarettes. Before the age of 30 – sh*t Tim, I thought, you are screwing yourself big time my friend! An emergency jump into the vaping scene seemed like my only viable option. Soon I developed an air of moral superiority over the average cigarette smoker, vaping everywhere and constantly. “What the hell is that thing?” the bemused Chinaman would ask me, “it is better for your health than smoking”, “oh ok”, they’d respond, while at the same time taking a drag on a heavy Qi Pi Lang (Seven Wolves) smoke. Over time, something just did not sit right with vaping. ‘Fake’ e-juices, the spillages, the leaks, the hassle, the bad press, batteries running out on nights out and the growing expense and complexity of it as I turned my bedroom into an e-juice factory, mixing liquids I knew little about into concoctions of my desired liking – all to save a few bob and beat the system.

My nicotine intake was getting higher than when smoking cigarettes. Meanwhile, the vape breaks and the inhaling and exhaling action continued to ingrain the addictive qualities and habits of the real draw on that Marlboro, deep into my mind. Fully in denial, smoking was still very much a part of me.

This image depicted a test tube rack that had been stocked with examples of various electronic cigarettes, referred to as e-cigarettes, or e-cigs, and vaping pens. These items would undergo testing inside a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) laboratory environment.
Photo by CDC / Unsplash

I am not alone in feeling uneasy about vaping. Many governments around the world including China and the United States are putting increasing regulatory pressure on the vaping industry. In the case of China, state governments have outlawed online distribution of vaping products. In addition, China’s state propaganda machine has attacked vaping with full force, educating the public on the potential health issues and negating the idea that vaping is an entirely safe and harmless alternative to smoking. One may be forgiven for scepticism as to why the Chinese government is doing this but there is even talk of the government banning vaping in public spaces.

This represents a massive turnaround for a country which dominates the vaping industry. A single city, Shenzhen, the ‘Silicon Valley’ of China is busy manufacturing approximately 90% of the world’s e-cigarettes.

When skyline meets fishing ponds
Photo by Joseph Chan / Unsplash

According to Euromonitor, China’s e-cigarette market was worth $750.4 million in 2018, 300% more than it was in 2014.

This is where Nicotine Freak comes in – we believe that as a market nicotine pouches can enjoy spectacular growth prospects, not just in China but around the world, just as vaping did. Fortunes were made and they can be once again.

Nicotine pouches are a nicotine-based alternative which could be the answer to helping Beijing meet its 2030 health targets. The product represents an enormous opportunity to replace vaping and smoking with a safer, cleaner and more socially and legally acceptable alternative. Nicotine Freak believes that nicotine pouches are the path to the dream of a smokeless future.

I am extremely proud to be a partner to the Nicotine Freak movement. By realising a smokeless world, we hope to deliver the quality of life that smokers, their families and those around them deserve, not just in China but in Europe, the US and across the whole world. Join us in our crusade and help us make this a reality.

Header Photo by Mathew MacQuarrie on Unsplash

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Timotheos (Tim) Hatzis

China Expert and Business Consultant

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