Cigarettes have turned out to be among the most popular gifts for the upcoming Spring Festival, a public health survey has found.
More than half of the poll's 1,200 respondents, some of whom are smokers, said they will give away cartons of cigarettes as gifts during the festivities. Recipients of such gifts ranged from family members to business partners.
The survey was conducted by the Jiangsu provincial center for disease control and prevention (CDC).
More than 68 percent of those polled also said they were fully aware of the scientifically proven health hazards of tobacco.
"Brand name and expensive cigarettes are always the safest choice for gift giving in China to show respect. Few people, including non-smokers, will openly deny the practice because of health concerns," said Wu Yiqun, deputy director of the Thinktank Research Center for Health Development, a Beijing-based nongovernmental organization.
Fu Rong, a college teacher in Beijing, said two cartons of brand name cigarettes helped make up the Spring Festival gift list for her father back home in Shaanxi province.
"I don't want him to smoke because of health concerns, but I still give him the cigarettes and always ask him to smoke less," she said. "For chain smokers like him, cigarettes are an easy choice. They are also light and easy to carry."
That also seems to be true for non-smokers.
In a country with 350 million smokers, cigarettes as presents can be a welcome option for recipients, Wu said.
In varied social settings like family and business meetings, people tend to pass around and light cigarettes to be polite, she said. "It's something quite unique to China," she said.
Cigarettes are also usually the first things on plates before food at formal dinners, she said.
Official statistics show that one million Chinese people die from smoking-related diseases each year in the country.