Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg want India and China to quit smoking. No kidding…forget the all-consuming war in Iraq, the deficit America is suffering from, the money they owe to most countries, the erosion of international goodwill for America.; two of the USA’s most influential men feel that the levels of smoking and other tobacco consumption in India and China are appalling.
“A world without tobacco is a world in which people live longer, and have happier lives,” Bloomberg, the mayor of New York has said. First of all, this man is the mayor of the city in which I currently reside, and I must say, it is not perfect. So his desperate desire to purge the third world of tobacco says that there is more to this than meets the eye. This extremely rich pair of businessmen is setting its sights on the two fastest developing countries in the world today.
There is one point they make which catches the eye. They say that as more and more Americans are quitting smoking, the tobacco companies are looking towards developing countries as potential markets. When people rail against tobacco companies, they describe them as evil money-making machines which target the innocent people, and avoid printing warning labels in countries where they are not mandatory. This point is often said, and to an extent it is valid.
One small problem: of the two countries being targeted for cleansing, India has statutory warnings on all cigarette packs and in China, the cigarette companies are nationalized. So the govt. controls everything for them. In truth, the image of the tobacco company as the rapacious money guzzling, “spare no health” pure evil cannot be used as a motivator for the current approach that these two philanthropists are taking.
Let us assume for a second that altruism is the only motivation for this undertaking. They are planning to put down $500 million. Aren’t there better ways to spend this money? You can use it to improve conditions in the USA. Why must you interfere with other countries?
Smoking is a poisonous habit which will lead to poor health. That is my opinion. I have to admit though, that smoking is a personal choice. Longevity need not be the key to everyone’s life. Some people in the world are willing to make the trade-off and lose a few years of their life in exchange for that cigarette. Even if we don’t understand it, can we not respect it? And don’t give me the nonsense about how second-hand smoke kills. We are living in a polluted world filled with huge hummers pouring carbon monoxide into the atmosphere, while we are driving to Burger Kings, KFCs and other harbingers of cardiac arrest, drinking till we puke, having bottles of coke with 26grams of sugar in them, but god forbid if someone around us lit up a cigarette! Also, let’s not forget that these days, smokers are shunned away and pushed into corners at all places. Anyone who chooses to smoke has to consent to being treated like a second-class citizen.
Second-hand smoke is very rare these days because smoking is prohibited in almost all public places. The very idea that smoking and drug consumption are the bane of our society shows how myopic we are as a people. There is ethnic cleansing happening in so many countries where people are killing their own neighbors for being the wrong religion. People are fighting over the regions in India right now, and we have people clamoring for reservations in academic fields.
During this entire hullabaloo, the last thing we need to be blowing money on is curbing smoking. It is bad enough that Anbumani Ramadoss (read attention seeking Dramadoss) keeps taunting some or the other actor for smoking on screen. Now he is going to get international sanction and support. The USA declared a ‘war on drugs’ which has turned out to be a complete flop. There is no reason for it to work here.
In India, the govt. taxes the tobacco companies, and this makes cigarettes and cigars expensive. That is the best thing. Make it expensive to smoke in the country. The people who are still interested in it will have to shell out more, and with the proper segregated areas for smoking, they can have a good time without hurting other people. Must we make everything complicated? Isn’t this one of those things which can be regulated easily and does not need any policing?