Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Nigeria takes Big Tobacco to court about kids

Why kids smoke

Sometimes one can wonder how kids get into smoking and eventually get hooked on the thing for life.

Growing up in Nigeria, there was a bit of a rascal in me and I remember times with my cousins we had a puff at strips of matting (sleeping mats) which had the look and feel of real cigarettes but their potency and efficacy was not known apart from the fact that they were unsmokable.

I had a puff or two before I was a teen but only really started when I was 14, however, it was a secret act of rebellion and quest for adulthood – however, kids caught smoking exacted the highest penalties of corporal punishment and serious ostracism from older members of society along with status amongst peers.

Resisting peer pressure

I always drew the line about what I would try and I remember one episode when I was in company of people more wayward and off the rails than I was, who were smoking pot, I refused to participate whilst others did – a few days after, one of the tough girls in that group leapt out of a first-floor window to escape many things I cannot recount.

She spent a few weeks in hospital and returned to her ways and people usually do.

I did have an inclination to start smoking pipes, but never got that far with the threat that someone at polytechnic was going to inform my parents of my smoking; one had to be more discrete about these vices.

Quitting by religion

At 18, I got religion and it just stopped, the desire, the craving and wanting and I did not have another puff till 17 years later and none since.

Whilst religion seemed a good thing, one must say that there is nothing that preaches against smoking as one can find preaching against alcohol. Basically, smoking is just a “social vice” which has been promoted into a sin because basically, it is what adults do rather than kids.

If however, one sees smoking as an addiction and hence a type of bondage from which one would want to be delivered then there is scope for belief systems to help.

There is also the matter of stewardship of your body in such a way as not to bring it into harm’s way – though not many take the body as seriously as they show even though it is the only shell of representation we have to interact in this world.

Those rotten companies

I am quite interested in the move by Nigeria of suing international cigarette companies on the matter of childhood smoking. They probably have a cause, I am not sure if they have a case.

Indeed, there should be serious educational material that talks about the dangers of smoking and the consequences of the same beyond threats and housewife tales.

When I was a kid, the most glamorous adverts were the smoking ones which showcased Marlboro Man and made every kid want to live their lives like him.

Tobacco companies would want to present a responsible corporate image to the West whilst they aggressively ply their trade in developing and emerging economies because that is where the growth for their market is, until some smart head shows to replace fossil fuels with tobacco.

Intoxicating Africa for Western profits

These emerging economies would usually not have addiction mitigating services or disease amelioration systems to handle cancers and other smoking-related disorders such that once people are hooked, they are truly hooked as they dig their graves with each long draw of the puff.

It is a welcome move and if does not get the companies doing something positive about eliminating access to the toxic weed to children they would know that the times of dumping poisons in Africa to keep their profits in the West are coming to an end.

In general, smoking is becoming less a social statement with smoking bans in New York, London and many other cities, smokers are finding ways of a healthier outlook to life; there are some who see a human-rights element to the freedom to puff, hopefully the quest of a healthier life would outweigh any temporary benefits that lead to long-term terminal illness.

References

Illicit tobacco trade contributes to global disease burden

Smoking curbs: The Global Picture

The African tobacco conundrum

Taking the World Up in Smoke

Tips to stop smoking

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