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Wedding banquets go smoke-free

By WANG HONGYI  (China Daily)

09:25, May 29, 2013

A total of 42 newlyweds in Shanghai have pledged to keep their wedding banquets tobacco-free, to help promote the city's anti-smoking campaign.

At a collective tobacco-free wedding ceremony on Sunday at Century Park in Shanghai's Pudong district, they promised that they would not offer cigarettes at banquets, accept cigarettes as gifts or give cigarettes to friends and relatives.

Their invitation cards will also inform guests that they will be attending a tobacco-free wedding banquet.

"Neither I nor my husband smoke. We want to persuade our relatives to stop smoking with our special wedding banquet," said Hu Xueyan, a nurse at Caojiadu Community Health Center in Jing'an district.

Smoking is deeply rooted in many parts of Chinese society. At a traditional Chinese wedding banquet, high-grade cigarettes are required for the bride to show respect to male guests. Meanwhile, cigarettes should also be put on the banquet tables, to express the hosts' sincerity and gratitude.

The tobacco-free wedding banquet campaign was launched by the country's health officials and tobacco control experts in 2011, to promote indoor smoking controls in a country with the world's largest population of smokers.

Since then, tobacco-free wedding banquets have been held in many cities and provinces, such as Shanghai, as well as Zhejiang and Shandong provinces. But the overall number is still very small.

"It's a little bit difficult for all guests to quit smoking during the whole wedding banquet, especially heavy smokers," said Wang Rui, who is planning his wedding next year.

"Young people can accept the concept, but it's more difficult for older people. I'm afraid that my parents won't allow cigarettes to be out of sight during my wedding," said another man surnamed Zhang.

"They may think that a tobacco-free wedding ceremony would make them lose face."

Hu Zhaoming, president of Shanghai Association on Tobacco Control, said prohibiting smoking at wedding banquets was an effective way of raising public awareness.

"It is indeed not easy to change the country's wedding traditions. These couples have set a good example for others, and their decision will have a positive impact on society," Hu said.

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