Sunday, March 3, 2024
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HomeEducation / CultureWhere there’s smoke

Where there’s smoke

By Tony Deyal

In my smoking days, one of my friends wanted me to try a hookah. “You mad or what?”, I asked. “You want me to get some kind of venereal disease?” My friend replied, “What kind of stupidness you talking? You always smoking. Only when you sleeping you don’t have a cigarette in your mouth.” I replied, “Listen. I don’t mind putting a cigarette in my mouth but I am not putting no hooker in it and get some kind of venereal disease.” It is then I learnt the difference between a hookah and a hooker.

As American editor, Windsor Man, wrote in Better hookah than hookers, “Actually, hookahs are tobacco pipes with water in them – inanimate objects, unlike women who charge money for sex. But like prostitutes, they are dirty, expensive and extremely popular among pubescent males who can afford them.”

Even though my drinking habits made me more “pub-escent” than pubescent, I was rarely without a cigarette. Fortunately, I eventually worked out that cigarettes are killers who travel in packs. Actually, we pay twice for our cigarettes – first when we get them and then –  when they get us. One of the problems every smoker has it that smoking becomes a comfort zone. This was the case of the young bride whose husband was upset about her smoking. One night, after some love-making, she immediately lit up a cigarette.

“This is too much to deal with every night,” he shouted. “You really must quit smoking. It’s a nasty vice.” Tired of his nagging, she explained: “I really enjoy a good cigarette after sex.” He responded: “But they stunt your growth!” She then asked him if he ever smoked and he boasted, “Never. And I will not do it for as long as I live.” Smiling, she looked him up and down and asked, “So what’s your excuse?” Actually, the best option for him to have stopped her from smoking was to get a waterbed and fill it with gasoline. Of course, some ladies, when asked if they smoke after sex, tell you they never look to see.

The person to blame for bringing tobacco to England and then to the rest of us was Sir Walter Raleigh. He paid for it but not as much as we do now. Raleigh was smoking in his garden and his servant, thinking the boss was on fire, dumped a bucket of water on him. Not long afterwards, smoking caught on like a house, and not just a sir-and-sir, on fire.

Now, as CCN points out: “Smoking can kill you. We’ve known that for at least 50 years – and yet millions still smoke, and thousands more pick up the habit every year. Why? Their stories involve strong addictions, passionate defiance – and billions spent to make people act against their own best interest.” Despite knowing how dangerous cigarettes and other related products are, the bad news is that nearly one-in-four adults in the world smoke tobacco. The little good news is that less than one-in-ten women do.

About 50 years ago. I went straight from three packs of cigarettes a day to none. I was lucky to find out for myself that Tobacco Road is a dead end. What made me stop was my pride. I was playing poker in a “Recreation Club” in Trinidad and, at about three o’clock in the morning, ran out of cigarettes. Seeing that my friends had used up most of mine, none of us had any. One of them went around the ashtrays looking for butts with a smokable remnant. He brought me one and I greedily took a drag. Then I took stock of myself and what I had allowed smoking to do to my pride.

I was the first person in the country to have a first-class honours degree in journalism; we were expecting a second child; I was the television producer in the prime minister’s office; and I was not just squandering money on something that guaranteed a horrible life. And an even more horrible death but, in following my father’s footsteps with hard liquor and cigarettes, the odds were 75 to one that my children would do the same. Now at 77 going on 78, I still play cricket with my son, lift weights, run when a dog chases me or my wife calls me; and, best of all, enjoy the taste of food and mostly non-alcoholic drinks with the exception of the occasional glass of wine. Living is, and continues to be, a breath of free (and fresh) air.

I now have the right to boast to myself: “You’ve come a long way, baby!”  However, this was the slogan used by the Philip Morris International (PMI) company in 1968 to push the Virginia Slims brand of cigarettes.

Recently, the company was at it again. For several days Trinidad’s NEWSDAY pushed a lurid advertisement with the headline, “PMI wants a smoke-free Trinidad and Tobago”. I was stunned. A cigarette company pushing “smoke-free”? The country manager of the company, Sheldon Wood, clarified: “The first thing that we always advocate is, if you are smoking, the best thing to do is stop.” Then he added: “We don’t shy away from that but there is also the reality that there are legal-aged smokers who make a conscious decision to continue. Our vision is to provide these people who make that decision, to give them a less harmful alternative…One of those items already on the Caribbean market is the IQOS (“I Quit Ordinary Smoking”) brand.”

STOP (Stopping Tobacco Organisations and Products) insists that Philip Morris International is addicting new users to its IQOS product because its cigarette business is under threat and not because it wants smokers to quit. STOP found that IQOS emissions contain some of the same harmful constituents as cigarette smoke. Also, the reduced levels of harmful chemicals have not been linked to reduced risk to health. The United States Food and Drug Administration noted that PMI has not demonstrated that IQOS will significantly reduce harm or the risk of tobacco-related diseases.

Additionally, PMI’s own studies identified 80 substances present exclusively or in higher levels in IQOS emissions than in cigarette smoke, including carcinogens and other potentially harmful chemicals. The US National Library of Medicine indicated that exposure to smokeless aerosol products can increase respiratory tract infections. Vaping can cause lung scarring, also known as “popcorn lung”.

Manufacturers often imply or even claim that spit or smokeless tobacco can help people quit smoking. A lot of people believe and try this. However, the American Cancer Society has found that no smokeless tobacco product has been proven to help people quit smoking.

Even as I wish, pray and hope this article will help smokers to try going “cold turkey”, I know that it will not have any effect. Smokers are the only people who can, should, and must want to immediately help themselves. Unlike my father who kept saying: “I will stop tomorrow.” He did. However, he was in the hospital after a coma and non-stop pain.

* Tony Deyal was last seen asking, “What’s another name for time off from work to have a smoke?” A coughy break. 

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