Chinese Language Blog

Talking about Smoking in Chinese Posted by on Jun 17, 2019 in Vocabulary

Old man at the Great wall by Tormod Sandtorv from is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Smoking (吸烟 xī yān) is a bad habit (坏习惯 huài xí guàn).

Cigarettes appear to have originated in Mexico and Central America around the 9th century in the form of reeds and smoking tubes. In the 19th century, the cigarette had crossed into Europe and received the name cigarette (香烟 xiāng yān). Nowadays, the adverse health effects of cigarettes are a well known fact. And yet, many are still smoking. Some people think smoking is cool, some even think it’s sexy, or just find it hard to avoid cigarette craving. But smoking harms your health (损害健康 sǔn hài jiàn kāng). It speeds up skin aging, stains teeth, decreases immune function, and cause terrible diseases. In general, smoking is bad for your body (对你的身体不好 duì nǐ de shēn tǐ bù hǎo).

This bad habit effects the ones who don’t smoke, too. Secondhand smoking (二手烟èr shǒu yān) is also harmful to your body (对你的身体有害duì nǐ de shēn tǐ yǒu hài). My body, for example, immediately responds in the presence of cigarette smoke (香烟烟雾xiāng yān yān wù). My eyes become red and I start coughing (咳嗽ké sou) non-stop.

While the tobbaco industry is thriving, many countries, and China among them, are trying to reduce smoking rates. According to the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Tobacco Monopoly, advertisements of tobacco products are not allowed on radio, television, newspapers, or magazines. The popular Chinese social media website Sina Weibo did more than that. In 2017, to support China’s efforts to cut smoking rates, the site has removed one of its emojis. The discarded emoji was wearing sunglass and had a lit cigarette in his mouth (叼着一根香烟diāo zhe yī gēn xiāng yān). The act was praised by the authorities, but not all of Weibo users were impressed. An emoji won’t cause someone to smoke (抽烟chōu yān), as one of them wrote.

叼着烟在市场散步 (diāo zhe yān zài shì chǎng sàn bù, strolling in the market with cigarette in his moth); image via Pixabay

An emoji won’t convince someone to quit (戒烟jiè yān), either. Nicotine (尼古丁ní gǔ dīng) is an addictive substance. For heavy smokers it is extremely hard to quit. This article in Chinese gives useful advice for smokers who wish to abandon this bad habit. A cute Chinese children’s song encourages smokers’ kids to exhort their parents: 好爸爸,请你把烟戒掉 (hǎo bà ba, qǐng nǐ bǎ yān jiè diào, good dad, please quit smoking). Watch its animated version to practice our vocabulary:


Text vocabulary

吸烟 xī yān = smoking, to smoke

坏习惯 huài xí guàn = bad habit

香烟 xiāng yān = cigarette

损害 sǔn hài = to harm, to damage

健康 jiàn kāng = health

身体 shēn tǐ = body

不好 bù hǎo = bad, not good

二手烟 èr shǒu yān = second-hand smoke

有害 yǒu hài = harmful, injurious

香烟烟雾 xiāng yān yān wù = cigarette smoke

咳嗽 ké sou = to cough

叼 diāo = to hold something in the mouth, to have something in one’s mouth

根 gēn = a measure word for cigarette

抽烟 chōu yān = to smoke

戒烟 jiè yān = to quit smoking

尼古丁 ní gǔ dīng = nicotine




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