I’ll never forget the day I fumbled a speech in front of a thousand odd heritage villagers on what I’d do if I were stuck in a room with a friend. Yes, there were the obvious nudges to “why don’t you start with hum do ek kamre mein bandh ho”, but suffice it to say that those of you who know me will realize why I chose not to say a word in Hindi.
Looking back though, there’s a one in two chance that John Doe would be chimneying a pack of cigarettes right about now. He’d probably never get away with it in Marlboro country, but with some of the world’s worst social legislation, it’s all but commonplace in the Middle East. In fact, if you step into our offices at 18:01 on any given day, we’re only a couple of road signs and a cocktail table away from an evening at Scarlett’s.
The EPA apparently classifies cigarette smoke as a Class A carcinogen, which puts it in the same bracket as arsenic and popping your head into a coke oven. The bigwigs obviously wouldn’t want to be sued for not telling you that, so they’ll happily print the lung and cancer spiel on every packet, carton and crate. And let’s not discount the smoking PSA which makes gold at the New York Festivals each year, just because some agency had too much time on their hands (read Khaleej Times, and you’ll know what I mean). Question is, will any of that stop Doe from lighting up?
Odds are, it’s a no. Surprisingly, though, you’ll find that there’s nothing like walking up to John and telling him to put it out. You wouldn’t think twice about standing up for yourself if John were a steam vent at a nuclear power station; yet for some reason, we’re all bewildered by the thought of being ostracized when it comes to saying no to smoke, let alone smoking.