When I was young, I saw that at least one house in the village used to sell bidis (local smoking goods- called BIRRI) made of banyan leaves. Due to the market’s distance and the communication system’s difficulty, this domestic market selling bidis was not doing badly. Besides, there was another reason: some of these banyan leaves bidis customers were women who used to smoke very secretly. But even though there is no documentary about why women smoked secretly, it can be assumed that women smoking was frowned upon in a male-dominated society. So women had to smoke secretly. I personally disagree with such a view of society. If smoking is bad – it is bad for both men and women. If men and women can eat FUSKA together on the street, if men and women can share a packet of Kasundi guava sitting side by side in a rickshaw – then I don’t know what is wrong if men and women share a cigarette. If a boyfriend can sit on a park bench and blow a mouthful of smoke on his girlfriend’s face, then I don’t understand what’s wrong with her smoking. Although smoking is not only a society’s view of women, it is also a view of the strong person on weak ones, the older over, the younger. That’s why we used to see – both father and son smoke, but the father is in an open place – the son is in secret, the teacher is in public – the student is in secret, the leader is in public – the worker is in secret! Any sane person should wish that the tyrannical activities of the socialists should be broken.
But how? How can it be equal? Will the son smoke in front of his father or do it together? Will students pull their cigarette butts to their teachers for sharing? Boyfriend and girlfriend will take relaxation with a cigarette, same as drinking a green coconut in Cox’s Bazar? Let’s think about it. But, before that, let’s get some information about smoking.
Bangladesh is also among the ten countries where most smokers live in the world. Besides this, there has been no change in the percentage of male smokers in Bangladesh in the last 25 years, but the number of female smokers has increased. This information has been reported in a report published in the medical journal ‘The Lancet’. The report titled ‘Global Burden of Diseases’ was prepared with the data of hundreds of scientists. The report published a list of 22 countries with the highest number of smokers, with Bangladesh at the top.
Croatia published another report on the number of smokers. According to ‘Croatia Week’s report’ on 22 smoking countries, women in Bangladesh smoke the most. ‘Croatia Week’ also reveals that experts believe tobacco companies are targeting consumers in India and China as smoking restrictions increase in Western countries. A group of researchers observed smokers in 187 countries worldwide from 1980 to 2012. According to the results of their observation, the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), a health magazine, said that the male smoking rate in India has decreased from 33.8 percent to 23 percent in the last 30 years.
On the other hand, the rate of female smokers increased by two percent during the same period. Although the number of smokers worldwide has decreased as a percentage, the number of deaths due to smoking has not decreased. According to the report, smoking is responsible for one in 10 deaths worldwide. Almost half of them are citizens of China, India, the USA or Russia. Suppose the number of smokers in those four countries is added to the number in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Philippines, Japan, Brazil and Germany. In that case, it will be about 63 percent of the total number of smokers worldwide, according to the report.
Former His Excellency President Dr AQM Badruddoja Chowdhury has a wonderful quote on smoking. He said – “If someone can give me an example where smoking is beneficial, I will not ask him to quit smoking”. A truly amazing thing is ‘smoking’. Despite knowing there are no benefits and it has numerous harms, people smoke. Among the rapidly developing countries, which have undertaken sustainable development programs, the state is preparing the youth of those countries. Among them, the smoking tendency is also an issue for them because smokers are physically and financially harmful.
Everyone who studies Literature in China has to interview foreign students. I have faced this type of interview several times. Whenever someone asked me, ‘ What things do you dislike in China?’ I replied – except for a couple of things, I really want to praise Chinese culture. The top of these things is smoking. The Chinese are heavy smokers, and they smoke in public places. In particular, there are sofas and chairs for the elderly to sit under every residential building, where Chinese elderly men and women sit together and smoke as if they all lit coils to repel mosquitoes. After hearing my comment, one asked me with a smile – ‘Have you seen any university student smoking like this?’ After thinking for a while, I replied – I don’t remember. ‘Listen, our young generation has understood the dangers of smoking, so we don’t smoke. But we do not want to protest our old generation so they can enjoy their life by smoking,’ laughed the interviewer. This made me think a little. So I started following the young generation. I am really surprised that their youth, especially those studying at the university, do not habituate to smoking!
The complete opposite picture of this situation is in our country. The thought is that if someone is a university student and can’t hold a cigarette with his two fingers, he is rustic. The girls are not behind in such modernity nowadays. Now girls are also smoking in public. It is now very common on the streets of elite areas of the capital. Private university girls are slightly ahead in this case. A recent survey found that 72% of private university girls smoke. If someone is a non-smoker, she is old-fashioned. So at least she smokes to be modern. Standing on the street or sitting in a restaurant smoking a cigarette in front of friends, she feels very modern. It also seems to have increased the level of women’s equal rights.
In my academic student life, I used to see that if any of my classmates smoked, they would not even take it out in front of their female classmates because it would block or create a distance in friendship. Now the situation has changed. An egalitarian atmosphere has been created that ‘it is better to share a cigarette than to snatch it from a man’s hand’. Equal rights for women have also been established. The female students took out a pack of cigarettes from their vanity bag and asked for a lighter from the male student. Instead of threatening to give up smoking to a lover or finding relief in him when he throws his face full of smoke into the sky – young women with burnt foreheads are burning themselves with nicotine in the ‘smoke of modernization’. Such a decision to get involved together in wrongdoing without allowing others to do bad things in the imaginary intoxication of modernity is ominous for society. To implement equality of rights by submerging oneself in injustice without resisting injustice is an act of extreme stupidity – which is unexpected.