Friday, 13 February 2009

Ashes to Ashes...

I was involved in a heated conversation two weekends ago, where but for the introduction of some good old-fashioned tact, there could have been blood! The popping veins and raised decibels of the verbal pugilists displayed the passion felt about the controversial topic. Can anyone guess what the subject was? No, okay...I will help you.

It was simply; 'Does Barack Obama smoke?'

One never realises how much love people have for an individual until an area of contention emerges and the ever-ready grey cells get engaged in the mother of all arguments. There was actually a moment during the epic debate, where I literally feared that if I could not produce any evidence to back up my claim that the 'messiah' did smoke, I was in grave danger of not walking out of the bar with my dentition intact!

It seems discussions about the little stick can grow unexpectedly into passionate wrestling matches, as witnessed during the battle to ban indoor smoking in the United Kingdom and United States. Of course, naturally, the non-smokers won as no matter how much one loves dragging on the deadly weed, the overwhelming evidence that passive smoking is an extremely hazardous sport, destroyed any arguments about freeedom that the Smoking League had.

So, as the conversation petered out and the hostile voices became friendlier, I cautiously began another discussion regarding the banning of indoor public smoking in Nigeria for starters and probably Africa in the long run. I was surprised to find myself in a minority of one, arguing that the Federal government could pass the neccessary laws if it wanted to. Everyone, despite the fact we all complained bitterly that our clothes always stunk of tobacco after a night out drinking, seemed to think there was no political will to push through the legislation. A clearly sozzled friend was more indignant;

'How can you ban smoking indoors, when the President smokes like a chimney? All these governors, even the good ones like our dear Mr Fashola, smoke all day long!'

As you can imagine, I had no reply to that, neither did I want to re-ignite the Obama thing. I was tempted though, as a statement like; 'the President of the US smokes and that country has banned indoor public smoking,' would have been golden at that moment, but running the tip of my tongue around my dentition soon stopped that thought. But, the issue as comical as it might have appeared on tht fateful night, has a serious thread to it.

The effect of smoking on the African continent is to say the least, damaging. Unfortunately, the profits made by the likes of British American Tobacco means we are all involved in a long and brutal battle to limit the number of our brothers and sisters that we lose to the various forms of resulting cancer. In certain parts of Nigeria as all over Arica, there are smokers as young as 10! The idea is to get the youngsters into the habit of a lifetime and ensure eternal customers and profit.

This is my take on the issue. Even though it is obvious that banning indoor public smoking will not stop the habit dead in it's track, it has been shown that the numbers of smokers does get reduced with the ban, as witnessed in the countries where it has been effected. There is no possible harm in a starting a bandwagon to install a smoke-free ambience in our bars, restaurants and cinemas. It's what is generally known as a no brainer. The cleansed air also opens up those places for the safe habitation of children.

So, if you don't want to do it for those of us who are grown and long in the tooth, could you just consider it for the kids?

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