Smoking in an anti-smoking world

A friend of mine was being pestered by another friend who wanted her to give up smoking. To make a long story short, this is an ongoing thing and I have come to associate the presence of that man with anti-smoking propaganda rather than a friendly conversation.

I am certainly not saying that one should or shouldn’t smoke, just commenting on how tedious it can get to have a whole bunch of brainwashed individuals who think that if you smoke, that’s the worst thing you can do for yourself.

I have smelled street air in Mumbai and it seems as bad as a cigarette and doesn’t even pretend to relax anyone. I smoke on occasion myself, and as an outdoor person, (ab)use my body beyond what many well wishers know as possible. I have yet to find myself incapable of doing something I could before I started.

Of course, I don’t deny that there are bad results that can happen from smoking, just like there are bad things that can happen if you drive. I think such decisions are personal and it is a person’s choice whether the harm outweighs what they get from it or not. I don’t see how anyone else can understand what my happiness is in walking for days on end in high-altitude. Surely it holds the fear of death, frost bite, natural calamities, danger from animals and humans, etc for the pleasure of being there?

And why do I consider anti-smoking enthusiasts misguided or brainwashed?

The key to that is understanding where they get their information from. No matter what the source, is it likely that such a popular occupation has absolutely no health benefits? Yet, how many of these are they aware of? I am usually suspicious of black-and-white stories and the anti-smoking campaign is one which raises every alarm I have. I find it impossible to believe that something that has lasted centuries is entirely evil, and if it is shown like that, I feel that I am being manipulated to live a decision someone else has made.

Many people feel relaxed when they smoke. Is smoking for relaxing worse than the heart attack from the stress it gets rid of? Who decides this for others?

How many of those who make these “prescriptions” have actually researched their subject in detail?

Among the people who died and reached hospitals for illness, in my acquaintance, there are three smokers (one died at the age of 63, two didn’t – one got jaundice and the other had an accident). Others are completely “healthy” individuals who don’t smoke, don’t drink, eat carefully and sleep adequately (out of these, 17 died – aged relatives and 16 didn’t). And yes, I actually sat and thought of everyone I knew who had died or had fallen seriously ill in the last 2-3 years. Part of this may be that I know more non-smokers than smokers, but certainly the difference is nowhere near this ratio.

I remember an old man from my time in Manali who was 93 years old and had lived a long and healthy life. He was mobile enough for his daily needs even then. He used to smoke. One day he had a chest pain, and the doctor told him to quit smoking. He asked the doctor, “I am 93. Is it possible that I may be dying of old age and not smoking? Smokers aren’t immortal until nicotine kills them, you know?” He continued to smoke, and as far as I know, was alive and well for 2 more years at least until I left the mountains to come and live in Mumbai 5 years ago.

I would be interested in the results of surveys of the percentage of smokers among the patients in a hospital and see if they are the same as those in the outside world. My hunch is that they are far less. Yet we blindly believe that smoking is what will land us there.

Smoking may be bad, but it certainly isn’t the only bad thing humans indulge in.

This certainly doesn’t mean that I suggest that you start smoking. What it means is that I suggest that you stop bugging smokers.