Monday, December 7, 2015

Bad "first world" stuff poisoning a poor country: The scourge of cigarette smoke

It seems trite after thirty years' realization of the dangers of second hand smoke to run headlong into this scourge here in Colombo. The amazing thing is that there are large parts of the country where cigarette smoking is nearly absent. It's expensive. And simple people in the countryside don't have the resources to squander. 

Too bad that's not the case in Colombo where money sloshes around, at least among certain classes, like water in a too-full tub. 

The first day I met our acquaintance Michael at the guest house he asked if I minded did he smoke near me. What an idiot I was to nod my assent. 66 years old he started two years ago and seems dead set on killing himself that way. Don't want to get flushed down the toilet with him though. The steady waft of irritating acidic smoke that he emits fills my nose, then my clothes, then my pores. Basta! I have to pick myself up and leave. It's like a threshold has been crossed and mild tolerance quickly changes to intolerance and revulsion. Could just be me. I think it's the smoke. 

Last night Janet took me out for a snack. We sat above the beach in a restaurant just down from the guesthouse. The breeze off the ocean was delicious and steady. It slowed, then stopped, and although no one near us was smoking it was pouring up through the floor. Just below was the bar where people literally sat lined up spewing smoke. With no one at the tables near us the feeling of claustrophobia that overtook was enough to ruin a nice night out. Could have been me. I know it was the cigarette smoke. 

Downstairs we waited for the rain to stop. Either you were dripped on or choking on smoke. A first-world problem maybe, here in the developing world where girls are sent as slaves to mediaeval satraps where they are stoned to death for random sex. Here in the developing world where cultivators are poisoned by needless agrochemicals, where whole families are dying of kidney disease brought on by those chemicals. Here in the developing world, a country just emerging from poverty and disaster, where the former president stole billions from his people.

There is money somewhere in Sri Lanka. There is money in Colombo. The money is being burnt like tobacco in cigarettes sold by the same corporations that dumped the agrochemicals on this society. Is it too much to assume people might wake up to the harm this causes?

1 comment:

  1. In rural men and women all chew betel.
    Probably worse than cigarettes.

    Second hand issues less now that spitting is prohibited in pubic places.