Monday, May 11, 2009

Smoke gets in your eyes

Since our annual trade deficit with China is more than $250 billion, most of us tend to overlook the fact that the “rules of the road” are different in the land of Mao than they are here.

China’s Gongan county (in the Hubei province) was in the news recently because it had issued an edict in March of this year mandating that local government officials needed to smoke 230,000 packs of the locally produced brand of cigarettes over the course of the year, or face fines and/or loss of employment:

Puff, the magic dragon

China is the world’s largest cigarette market, with over 2 trillion cigarettes sold every year. The number of smokers in China exceeds the entire population of the United States, where roughly 25% of the population smokes cigarettes.

I lived in southern China for a year, so can personally attest to the fact that the air quality in many Chinese cities would give the EPA the willies.

When you speak about Chinese air quality, the song that comes to mind is this one:

smoke gets in your eyes

who are the platters?

Each year, roughly one million Chinese people die from smoking related diseases, and that number is expected to double by 2020.

In America, the number of smoking related deaths is 450,000 (50,000 of those are considered “second hand smoke” deaths) and the financial costs of treating smoking related diseases is approximately $50 billion a year.

Worldwide, the annual death toll is approximately 5,400,000

Since more than 300 million people in China are regular internet users, you’d probably assume that they would be pretty well educated, particularly when it comes to health-related issues.

Surprisingly, 56.8% of the male doctors in China are smokers, which would imply that there’s a BIG disconnect between education and action when it comes to health issues.

There WAS a time in America that roughly 50% of the doctors smoked.

If you believe everything that you see on TV, you’ll be interested to know that more of those doctors (in 1949) smoked Camels (the first brand sold commercially in America) than any other brand:

smoke 'em if you've got 'em

I smoked my first cigarette when I was thirteen, and my last one when I was 19 (when the cost of a carton of cigarettes was roughly half what a single pack costs today), but will readily admit that I’ve solved my craving for tobacco by using pipes and cigars over the years in between.

There are a number of reasons why people take up smoking.

One of them is the belief that it looks glamorous.

In the 1940’s and 1950’s, many Hollywood actors and actresses did promotions for cigarette companies, and you can see those ads by clicking on the link below. My personal favorite is the one of Ronald Reagan wrapping cartons of “Chesterfields for Christmas”:

smoking is glamorous

Since life IS short, it truly is important that all of us have at least some vices to get us through the tough times, and I’m absolutely adamant about not telling anyone what they should or shouldn’t do.

If you feel that you’d like to have an occasional cigarette, and you live to a ripe old age, all I can add is this:

You’ve come a long way, baby.

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