China’s Twitter-like service stubs out its ‘cool’ smoking emoji

Smiling yellow face wearing sunglasses loses its cigarette in response to users’ comments, Sina Weibo says

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 September, 2017, 12:07pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 November, 2017, 10:40am

China’s top social media platform wants to make something very clear – smoking is no longer cool.

Sina Weibo, the Twitter-like microblogging service, on Wednesday replaced its “cool” emoji – a smiling yellow face wearing sunglasses and smoking a cigarette – with a non-smoking equivalent.

“After receiving users’ comments, Weibo decided to remove the ‘cool’ emoji from its international version, and [it] will soon be history for Weibo’s PC and mobile clients,” the company said in a statement.

The Beijing Tobacco Control Association applauded the move, saying it would help to give internet users a “positive and healthy space for discussion”. It also urged internet giant Tencent to remove its smoking emoji “as soon as possible” from its WeChat and QQ social platforms.

Tencent did not immediately respond to the Post’s request for comment.

Smoking keeps China’s poor mired in poverty, global agencies say

Weibo users were largely dismissive of the move, with many arguing that the country should “stop producing cigarettes” instead of banning emojis, while others raced to post the emoji one last time.

“People won’t stop smoking because of an emoji, and also won’t start smoking because of an emoji,” read a comment that garnered more than 2,300 “likes”.

“This is an unnecessary fuss! Will you also delete the word ‘smoking’ from the dictionary?” a Jiangsu-based commenter wrote.

Others applauded the move, with one Fujian-based user writing: “Being healthy is what’s actually cool.”

According to the World Health Organisation, there are about one million tobacco-related deaths in China every year. In recent years, the government has introduced a number of restrictions on smoking, including total bans in some public places, and those efforts were ramped up in 2016 with the launch of the “Healthy China 2030” campaign.

Most smokers in China have no plans to quit, study finds

However, in a country that has more than 300 million smokers – about 30 per cent of the global total – and produces more cigarettes than any other country, there remains considerable resistance.

As part of its public anti-smoking efforts, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television – China’s top media regulator – earlier this year issued new guidelines for television content that included a ban on displays of smoking that violated state regulations.

The move was intended to prevent “harming public morality and adversely affecting minors”, it said.