Everyday Death Trap|Death

发布时间:2020-03-26 来源: 美文摘抄 点击:

  One of my first surprises when I arrived in China was seeing men offering cigarettes freely and openly as a goodwill gesture to a friend, visitor or associate in the same way that we offer kola nuts or drinks to guests in Nigeria. Another surprise was the profuse smoking in buses, taxis, restaurants, offices and almost all public places with impunity, and without anybody raising an eyebrow. I watched as men in restaurants even smoked while they ate and drank. I was curious, but no one else seemed worried so I guessed this was all part of the culture.
  A few weeks later I made some friends in Cixi, a city near Ningbo in Zhejiang Province. They were quite hospitable and warm-hearted. But some of them are prolific smokers and a bit impolite. One evening, two of them invited me out for dinner in a coffee bar.
  “Do you smoke?” asked my friend. I answered, “No, I don’t.” They stared at me in disbelief. The next question was, “Why?” My simple answer was that it’s bad for my health. They laughed boisterously and chorused, “It doesn’t matter.”
  Then came another question: “Do you drink beer?” Again I answered “No.” Their faces turned gloomy. “Why?” one of them managed to ask calmly. “It’s not good for my health too,” I answered coherently. “Then you’re not a man,” he submitted with finality. The other concurred in strong support. “In China, if a man doesn’t smoke and drink, he’s not a man,” he claimed. The other shouted, “Yeah.” I answered with a dry smile, “Well, I’m not Chinese.”
  Tobacco consumption is a hot issue in the world today. The major concerns particularly are the alarming rate with which the youth purchase and consume it with impunity, the bad effect of secondhand smoke on non-smokers and the increasing tobacco-related sicknesses and premature death rates.
  In China alone--which has the highest rate of tobacco consumption--the number of smokers is gradually nearing 500 million, thanks to the new legions of young smokers. Around 80 percent of smokers in China are men and boys, 20 percent are women and girls. The open fact is that cigarettes are very easily accessible to everybody in China. They are sold in every nook and cranny and bought by anyone who has the money to do so. Although, not too long ago, the Central Government issued a directive to sellers to refuse any youngster from purchasing cigarettes, this directive didn’t seem to go farther than where it was issued. The paradoxical reality is that the prohibition seemed to have increased the rate of smoking among these youngsters.
  Who is to blame then? The problem is largely a result of bad social influence that hinges strongly on friendship or family. When one’s close associate is a smoker, one is likely to be influenced. When a father or mother is a smoker, their child is likely to be influenced too. In schools too, teachers who smoke lack the moral authority to advise student-smokers. That’s why one sometimes sees some schoolchildren openly practicing how to smoke.
  At the peak of summer last year, I bumped into an old friend on a busy street in Cixi. The weather was hot and humid as is typical of Chinese summer. Some passers-by held bottles of cold water, others ice creams, while some like my friend were puffing away like a chimney. Very close by, there was a big billboard with the inscription--“Tobacco: dangerous in any form or disguise.” It was boldly written in both English and Chinese. I politely asked my friend to read that billboard. He glanced at it and smartly reminded me that his grandfather is 95 years old but still smokes at least 10 cigarettes a day.
  He boasted that he would outlive his grandfather without quitting smoking. I didn’t argue further and kept my peace. We talked briefly on other issues and parted, but kept in touch via text messages. Then early this year, a few weeks before his 26th birthday, his younger brother called to say my friend was sick. When I saw him I could hardly recognize him. He had acute bronchitis. He lay in bed writhing in coughs and pains. When his condition improved three weeks later, he was discharged with a strict warning from the doctor: “Quit smoking unless you want to die in the near future.” That was the beginning of his battle to give up. Later, he told me he wouldn’t have touched a cigarette if he had known earlier it has such deadly powers.
  In my opinion, it would be greatly reasonable and helpful for cigarette companies to delve into health-friendly investments other than tobacco. While it’s obvious that some jobs would be lost if these companies were to close down and reinvest, there’s always some pain to a lasting gain. A bitter pill usually guarantees sweet health. Anyone who loses a job today may find another tomorrow. But anyone who dies today certainly won’t be around tomorrow.
  The author is a Nigerian living in Zhejiang Province
  If you"re an expat living in China and have a story or opinion about any aspect of life here, we are interested to read it. We pay for published stories. Submissions may be edited.省略

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