Chinese Smoking Etiquette (Cigarettes)

Smoking in China. There are a lot of smokers in China! Especially in Yunnan, where most of the tobacco is grown. Did you know that farmers can make up to 20x as much growing tobacco versus other vegetables? It pays the bills.

It is common to greet someone with a cigarette. Men smoking publicly, women, not so much. Smoking at meals (at a restaurant or in a home) is going to happen. You will be offered cigarettes many times on your trip. There are many types of cigarettes in China. There are even fake cigarettes in China (so if you though “normal” cigarettes were bad, what the hell are they putting in those “fake” ones?!)

This is all to say, there is etiquette on smoking in China, and whether you smoke or not, it might be helpful to know what the smoking etiquette is in China.

How Much do Cigarettes Cost in China

This may be part of the problem. They are cheap. Chinese cigarettes cost as little $0.30 USD per box. If you want to buy the brown box that cost $10.00 USD a box, they have those, too. And they have about 100 varieties in-between. You can even get American cigarettes in China.

Smoking Etiquette in China / The Cigarette Offer

    Smoking Etiquette in China

  • Chinese people (usually men, as women seem to be less public smokers) will offer you a cigarette when they first meet you. You can say, “Wo jie yan le” (wo-jee-ah-yen-lah) which means “I quit smoking,” or you can say, “Wo bu chou yan, xie xie,” (wo boo cho yen, shay shay) which means “I don’t smoke, thanks.” It’s polite to smile and light-heartedly wave off the offer. If they are persistent, keep saying no.
  • If you do smoke, get ready for the strongest cigarette of your life. If they offer you a cigarette, if you do not have a lighter, you must cup your hands around their flame when they are lighting your cigarette. It is very rude to stick your head out and have them try to light it for you without your assistance.
  • If you smoke, it is polite to always offer your surrounding guests cigarettes as well. Take two or three out of your pack, and insist that your guests take them, even if they don’t smoke. Busting out one cigarette for yourself will earn you the “I’m cheap” label real quick. Especially since in China, cigarettes cost between 5 – 10 RMB ($0.65 – $1.30 USD) per pack.
  • If you have your own place in China it is wise to have a pack of cigarettes, a lighter, and an ashtray in your house even if you do not smoke.
  • Never, under any circumstance, ask your guest to go outside or use your outdoor balcony or patio to smoke.

9 thoughts on “Chinese Smoking Etiquette (Cigarettes)

  1. Pingback: Chinese Table Etiquette: Important Tips, What to Say, Paying the Bill at Still Point

  2. is china that horrible???it seemed that china is MUCHMUCH better than the passage mentioned!!!!!CIGARETTES ARE BAD!!!

  3. Smoking Etiquette in China: Well where do I start first? Firstly I’m a non-smoking person who is working here in China. The Chinese have their own rules and manners about smoking we all agree. Do they really think it’s good to smoke? Do they know it kills you? Do they know it kills people by passive smoking? Perhaps the govenment should really educate these so called smokers that it’s dangerous to other peoples lives and I would never offer a cigarette in my own home to anyone. Who I would definley ask to smoke elsewhere and not in my presence. Who has the manners or the ignorance to smoke where there are no smoking signs? You guessed it right! Selfish etiguette is more like it.

  4. It’s great to hear that china IS realy civilised. Smoking is a part of culture and a human pleasure experience. Non smokers should stay out if they don’t like it. Why do the self righitous want to change the world… more than likley for their own best intrest.

  5. I’ll be making my third trip to Chongqing in July, 2009. It doesn’t matter whether or not you are a smoker. If you’re going to do business n China, you need to recognize the fact that it’s their country and they expect you to observe their customs and manners. If you don’t smoke, grin and bear it. If you do smoke, enjoy it. When it comes to observing manners and social behavior, I’ve learned from experience (if you want to be successful, which I am) you should try to be more Chinese than the Chinese themselves.

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