Campaign Pushes Smoke-Free Weddings in China

By Mei Schultz 07/11/13

A bold campaign tries to stamp out a key component in Chinese wedding ceremonies: smoking.

A Chinese bride wearing a mask to protect
herself from cigarette smoke.

Smoking is such an integral tradition at most Chinese weddings that one of the bride’s duties is to light cigarettes for all the male guests. Guests will often smoke through the ceremonies and receive packs of cigarettes as party favors, Wall Street Journal reports. But a new campaign, launched by Emory University’s Global Health Institute, is making an effort to stamp out the long-held tradition, as part of a broader initiative to reduce smoking in 17 Chinese cities. So far, the campaign has made some breakthroughs: 10 major hotels have signed contracts to make wedding parties smoke-free, 62 couples have held smoke-free weddings, and another 300 couples have pledged to ban cigarettes from their weddings. In the city of Changchun, health educators convinced several couples to replace cigarettes with candy at their ceremonies."Anything that increases the recognition that tobacco is harmful and shouldn't be part of special occasions or gift-giving is helpful," says Jeffrey Koplan, director of Emory. But smoking-cessation efforts still face enormous hurdles in China, which is home to 301 million smokers, the most in the world. Smoking is estimated to kill 1.2 million Chinese people every year, but anti-tobacco regulations have made little progress, in part because the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration, which enforces anti-smoking laws, also runs the country’s largest tobacco producer. Chinese weddings provide a particularly lucrative market to tobacco companies, who often sponsor the ceremonies.

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Mei Schultz is a copy editor, journalist and uUndergraduate Research Assistant at Columbia University Medical Center. You can find her on Linkedin.