No Freedom to Smoke, 14/09/09

Hong Kong cultural activist Leung Man Tao is a smoker. For many times, he just disappeared when we were giving a speech, dining or chatting and was later found smoking outside.

Leung has been devoting himself to Buddhism in recent years and he has even quit alcohol. However, he is still quite persistent in smoking.

When I asked him why, he said that it has nothing to do with “looking for inspiration”, as many thought. In fact, smoking just helps him to concentrate and provides a “sense of being”. (Such effects do not applicable to everyone. Children should not imitate.) Even smoking has become very inconvenient and many of his friends have quit smoking because of this, Leung still insists that “a person has the right to not smoke and at the same time, he or she has the right to smoke, too”. He has an unwavering faith in smoking.

“Non-smoking measures are in fact still controversial.”

However, he sighed that smokers have become more and more discriminated as smokers are portrayed as murderers and immoral in all kinds of anti-smoking campaigns and anti-tobacco advertisements.

Smokers have been pitifully expelled to outdoors, and even they have been forced to smoke on the street, passers-by still cast them a look of contempt and dodge away from them.

Eventually, smokers may have to smoke in dark alleys like drug addicts.

Therefore, Leung threatened to launch an “anti-anti-smoking” campaign together with other smoking cultural activists in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan next year.

As a repentant former smoker, I can only have sympathy for Leung and other smokers.

Although the anti-smoking movement in Malaysia is less harsh compared to Hong Kong, those disgusting pictures printed on our cigarette packages may be the worse in the world.

In order to avoid further hurting Leung’s feelings, I tried my best not to let him see Malaysia’s cigarette packages. Luckily, he smoked only his own rolled cigarette and his speech performance was not affected by cigarettes.

Non-smoking measures are in fact still controversial. From the liberal point of view, the measures are limiting a person’s choice and freedom.

In particular, many smokers are working class. Smoking is their main flavour of life but the living space that they can enjoy becomes lesser and lesser in the future.

However, anti-smoking movement is certainly a mainstream of the world community. The world will keep the anti-smoking movement based on personal health and the government’s health-care costs.

Not long ago, an American old woman, who had smoked for 47 years, died of lung cancer. Her daughter sued the tobacco company and requested for compensation. The jury voted nine to three in favour of the daughter and ordered the tobacco company to pay US$13.8million (about RM50 million) to the daughter.

Perhaps, not only the public will no longer dare to smoke in the future, but tobacco companies will dare not to sell cigarettes, too. (By TAY TIAN YAN/Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE/Sin Chew Daily)

( The opinions expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect those of MySinchew ) MySinchew 2009.09.14