Dear smokers. First the good news. The number of women smokers in India has doubled over the last five years. But the bad news: more and more people are not smoking at all.
Keeping a balanced view of smoking as a lifestyle choice and as a harbinger of bodily doom, we bring you, beloved smoker, some words of comfort today when you may be woken up, rounded up, stacked against a wall and shot through the head.
Yes, it’s World Anti-Tobacco Day and you are scum today.
The world was not always so fumiphobic. The tribes of North America, the home of tobacco, were traditional chewers of the Nicotiana leaf. They would smoke the stuff on sacred and special occasions. Exhaled tobacco smoke was thought to carry one’s thoughts to heaven — a poetic way, perhaps, of describing how nicotine helps concentration by affecting the transmission of bio-electrical currents in synapses, those spaces lying between neurons, the core components of the nervous system.
More recently, of course, the Eurocentric image of a cigarette dangling from the lips of a man or perched between the fingers of a woman were archetypal images of the alpha male and female across cultures.
But even if the film hero (or the anti-hero) lights up a cig in cinematographed light, in the real world, the fate of the smoker is now akin to that of a leper in mediaeval Europe, of a pariah.
So while the Venezuelan Yellow Frog and the Great Indian Bustard get all the love, affection and concerned attention, the extinction of the Homo Fumicus has become public and social policy. W
hich is why on World Anti-Tobacco Day today, braving much opprobrium, we reach out to you, despised, abused smoker standing outside in the heat. We give you the love and comfort that you really crave for so much more than that hit of nasty nicotine.