Under Pressure From Advocates, WeChat Emoji Quits Smoking

China’s most widely used app said Sunday that its cigar-loving soldier had adopted healthier habits.

An iconic emoji on China’s most widely used social network has given up smoking.

In a post Sunday on microblogging platform Weibo, social app WeChat’s parent company Tencent included before-and-after screenshots from the app’s emoji library, circling the “soldier face” emoji decked out in its army-green helmet. It’s not hard to spot the difference: In the current version, the helmeted head is missing its trademark cigar.

A single line of text included with the post reads, “Recently… quit smoking.”

WeChat has been reticent to say more about what prompted the change, which came with the Version 8.0.0 update earlier this year and has since gone largely unnoticed. The platform declined an interview request Monday, and a source within the company told Sixth Tone that staff had been asked not to discuss the matter with the media.

WeChat has been under pressure to reconsider its tobacco-related messaging for years. According to an article Sunday by state-run newspaper Beijing Daily, anti-smoking campaigners in Beijing first reported “smoking emojis” on social platforms like WeChat, Weibo, and QQ to the city’s tobacco control association in 2017. The association, in turn, lobbied the city’s cyberspace authorities to resolve the matter.

Both QQ — another Tencent-owned messaging app — and Weibo removed their tobacco-using emojis in late 2017, but WeChat’s smoking soldier persisted, seemingly undeterred. Zhang Jianzhong, president of the Beijing Tobacco Control Association, told Beijing Daily his organization even personally contacted Tencent’s CEO, Ma Huateng — also known as Pony Ma — to raise awareness about the message the symbol was sending. Continue to read the full article here

– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.