“Smokers won’t quit smoking because of the removal of an emoji, and non-smokers won’t start to smoke only because they think a smoking cigarette emoji is cool. What’s the point of doing this then?”
“If you really want to ban smoking, just shut down cigarette factories. How difficult is that?”
These two comments from Sina Weibo, China’s equivalent to Twitter, showcase how Weibo users are unimpressed (in Chinese) by the microblogging platform’s decision to remove a smoking cigarette emoji from its collection. The discarded image, which was withdrawn from both desktop and mobile versions of Weibo, features a gangster-like smoker wearing dark sunglasses with a lit cigarette in his mouth.
The decision was soon applauded by the Beijing Association of Tobacco Control. Zhang Jianshu 张建枢, head of the organization, told ThePaper.cn (in Chinese), “We highly praise Weibo’s removal of the emoji. As one of the biggest social media platforms in China, Weibo’s decision embodies its sense of social responsibility and how much it values the health of its users.” Zhang also noted that the association had called on Tencent, the parent company of WeChat and QQ, to take similar actions, adding that it’s improper for Tencent to define the smoking emoji as an implication of relaxing and leisure.
China is home to 300 million smokers and produces the world’s largest supply of cigarettes. In 2015, Beijing passed the harshest anti-smoking legislation in China’s history, which bans lighting cigarettes in restaurants and offices as well as on public transportation. Following the capital’s move, Shanghai also passed a regulation prohibiting smoking at all indoor public venues and work areas. However, China still lacks a national ban on smoking due to the country’s robust tobacco industry, which serves as a major source of revenue for local governments.
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