I read this really enlightening article about smoking at wedding in China by Debra Bruno posted in the China Real Time Report of the Wall Street Journal website site this morning. Here is the article:
July 11, 2013, 7:55 AM
Pipe Dreams? Pushing Smoke-Free Weddings in China
For the past few years, animal-rights activists have tried with increasing success to get shark’s fin soup taken off the menu at Chinese weddings. Now there’s an effort underway to rid Chinese nuptial celebrations of another unsavory feature: cigarettes.
A smoke-free wedding in China is about as common as a Fourth of July celebration without fireworks. Smoking is such an integral part of the wedding tradition that one of the bride’s main duties is to travel around the room lighting cigarettes for all the male guests. Packs of bright red “Double Happiness” cigarettes are typically offered as party favors on every table, and guests will frequently smoke throughout the ceremony.
“We were the only ones not smoking,” an American blogger who now lives in Shanghaiwrote about a wedding she attended in February. “OMG I have never experienced smoke like that. It has to be what a smoking box at the airport is like but with more people in the box smoking.”
Surprisingly, given that background, a campaign to get people to snuff out smoking at their weddings is experiencing some early success.
The effort is being led by Emory University’s Global Health Institute, which has used funding from the Gates Foundation to pursue smoke-free initiatives in 17 Chinese cities. While most of the cities are concentrating on programs that aim to get cigarettes out of public facilities like hospitals, government offices and schools, four of them – Changchun, Hangzhou, Qingdao, and Ningbo – have agreed to focus on weddings.
Working with Emory and a handful of Chinese government offices, the coastal city of Qingdao has signed contracts with 10 major hotels to make wedding parties smoke-free. So far in Qingdao, says Yixin Duan, a senior program officer with Emory’s Global Health Institute, 54 couples have held smoke-free weddings. In Changchun, eight couples have hosted smoke-free weddings and another 300 couples have signed a pledge to ban cigarettes from their weddings.
Another five couples in Hangzhou have agreed, while so far none in Ningbo have signed onto the pledge.
One of the people who decided to get married without cigarettes is Guan Lei, a 30-year-old health educator in Changchun who recalls being told by a doctor that secondhand smoke from his college roommates had given him the lungs of a five-year smoker.
“My parents were very supportive, and my wife and her family also agreed,” Mr. Guan said by email of his cigarette-free wedding in October. “My friends also said that the theme of the wedding was very new and very creative.”
Another health educator in Changchun, 32-year-old Lu Pin, replaced cigarettes with candy at her own wedding in June and said a number of her friends are planning to go smoke-free when they get married.
“Anything that increases the recognition that tobacco is harmful and shouldn’t be part of social occasions or gift-giving is extra helpful,” notes Jeffrey Koplan, director of Emory’s Global Health Institute.
Of course, these efforts pale in comparison to China’s tobacco problem. The country has 301 million smokers, making China the largest consumer of tobacco in the world, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in June 2011. Smoking kills 1.2 million people in China a year, says the World Lung Foundation.
Previous efforts to get Chinese people to cut down on smoking in public places have met with little success. A study published this year by the China Centers for Disease Control and Berkeley’s School of Public Health looked at close to 100 Beijing bars and restaurants from 2006 to 2010 and found that the city’s voluntary smoking enforcement wasn’t working. Many restaurants had fine particulate air pollution from secondhand smoke that was 10 times higher than the annual safe exposure limits devised by the World Health Organization.
Even restaurants and bars with nonsmoking sections often had about 40% of the smoke of the smoking sections, the report noted.
A big part of the problem in China is that the fox guards the hen house: The State Tobacco Monopoly Administration, which is responsible for implementation of anti-smoking laws, also runs China National Tobacco Corp., the country’s main tobacco producer.
The effort to promote smoke-free weddings faces its own particular hurdle in that tobacco companies, fully aware of how lucrative the marriage market is, often sponsor wedding-related events.
Hangzhou, for example, hosts an annual mass wedding ceremony called the China International West Lake Love Red Eagle Rose Mass Wedding Ceremony, named for the Red Eagle brand cigarettes produced by even sponsor China Tobacco Zhejiang Industrial Co. Nearby Ningbo boasts a similar mass wedding sponsored by the same company.
Emory and the China Tobacco Partnership have tried get to organizers of the Ningbo event to drop China Tobacco Zhejiang Industrial Co. as a sponsor, so far without luck.
– Debra Bruno
For us in Toronto, there are plenty of no smoking bylaws. However, there are still smoking in the outdoor spaces. What do you think about this trend? Is this a positive or negative element that would affect your guests’ experience at your wedding?
Wendy is a Toronto wedding planner who’s specialty is East marries West weddings for Double Happiness. She is renowned for designing luxurious weddings with refined elegance.
Whether you need wedding planning assistance or wedding day coordination, Wendy can help you design a celebration that your guests will never forget. Contact her today, she’d love to hear from you.
Wendy also travels to New York, Calgary, Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hawaii, Bali, Thailand and other destinations.