Internet giant Tencent has removed a smoking emoji from its QQ mobile app after requests from anti-tobacco campaigners.

The emoji, which displays a cigar-chomping soldier, is used by netizens to express a feeling of relaxation. However, on Monday, the emoji was replaced on the QQ app with a commando chewing a leaf.

The original emoji is still available on the PC version of the instant-messenger service as well as WeChat, which is also operated by Tencent.

Zhang Jianshu, director of the Beijing Tobacco Control Association, said the group had twice written Tencent to ask them to scrap the emoji as it could encourage smoking.

"It's not appropriate to link smoking with relaxation," he said. "The emoji could have a negative effect on people's ideas of leisure, especially teenagers."

He expressed his gratitude to Tencent and added that he hopes the offending emoji will soon disappear from the PC version of QQ and WeChat.

Sina Weibo, another major social media platform, swapped out the smoking commando for the leaf-chewing version in September.

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