Cigarette-shaped bread in Chinese universities arises concern over tobacco promotion
Published: Nov 19, 2020 04:47 PM

Photo: from website

A pork floss bread shaped as a cigarette recently became popular in Chinese universities for its novel appearance, but attracted controversy for possibly misleading young people into casual smoking as the country makes every effort to control tobacco usage for health reasons, according to media report.

The cream-based bread, shaped into a cylinder, had one end adorned with pork flossing to look just like tobacco in a cigarette. It was also wrapped in a cigarette paper-like film with a Chinese sentence on it saying lai gen hua zi, meaning "come and smoke a Chunghwa cigarette."

Lai gen hua zi comes from a trend on China's largest short-video platform, Douyin, started by a vlogger who plays a miserly and pretentious "layabout" in his videos. His character always offers another person a cigarette by saying "lai gen hua zi" but he never shares one.

The expression, and especially the word "hua zi" — a nickname for famous Chinese cigarettes brand Chunghwa — have since become viral because of the comic's role and catchy pronunciation, which has been imitated by many internet users. "Hua zi" bread has also become popular in some Chinese cities including Shanghai, Xi'an of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province and Wuhan of Central China's Hubei. 

A baker from Shanghai's Fudan University said that he was inspired by the short videos and made a cake in the shape of a Chunghwa cigarette, according to media reports.

However, the cake has brought about controversy as many believe that it promotes bad habits to young people who may not understand the damage that tobacco does to a person's health.

"Not everyone likes this kind of pop culture; it disgusted me a bit," a netizen said.

The association of tobacco control in Shanghai commented that the bakery should not be using cigarette-related imagery to sell its breads as promoting tobacco may have a bad influence on the students, reported.

However, others still hold an open attitude toward such innovation. "In fact, there are many opportunities for college students to be exposed to cigarettes in life. I think they should be able to recognize and be responsible for their own health," a student from Fudan University told the Global Times, adding that the innovative idea could bring more diversity to the food sold on campus. 

But she did suggest that the baker could put a small tag on the cake to warn students about the bad effects of smoking.

"We tried cigarette-shaped chewing gum at childhood. I hope the type of cake isn't banned because of some reason," a netizen commented.