It’s become common sense to many in the United States that smoking brings only adverse affects to one’s health. Nevertheless, the country is number five on the list of the heaviest smokers (number one is China). Despite seeing nearly half a million deaths a year from smoking related diseases, people continue to puff away, and, by and large, the world wide smoking market remains stable, disregarding the call from anti-smoking activists. What’s the culture behind this?
Across the World, A Culture of Smoking
Without a doubt, smoking has a culture. That culture has seeped in all over the world (much like the scent of smoke in clothes), largely because smoking has been around for so long. In fact, according to the University of Chicago Press, “Every culture in recorded history has smoked something, whether as a cure or for pleasure, whether as part of a ritual or as an aspect of popular culture.”
That said, humans, who have smoked for as long as we can recall, probably will continue to smoke for as long as we’re around. Because of this, whole cultures have been assembled around smoking. Take Europe and Africa, for example.
Despite the bans on smoking across Europe, the region still faces a huge population of smokers. France, Britain, Austria, and Italy are some prime examples.
Although each country has passed heavy smoking bans, the proliferation of smokers has forced them to reconsider much of their laws, the Wall Street Journal reported in January of 2009.
The Health Ministry in Italy actually found that the population of smokers had stayed essentially the same despite the bans in 2005.
Austria is no different. Nearly one out of two teens smoke, and on average, Austrian women will smoke before the age of 12, according to the same WSJ report. This affinity to smoking dates back to the 1800s when artists and writers crammed into café to discuss politics, their craft, and their lives.
Africa, unfortunately, seems to be facing a growing crisis regarding smoking.
A report by VOA News stated that Africa is expected to double its tobacco use in the next 12 years. There, smoking starts at a young age and is even turned into a trade for many homeless children, who sell cigarettes on the street. While smoking is relatively low in Africa compared to other countries, it appears to be growing at about the rate of four percent a year according to the World Health Organization.
The culture behind the growth is seen much as something “social” – cigarettes become available to youngsters in elementary school, people have begun to smoke together on buses and in night clubs, and now it is easier to get a pack of cigarettes than a condom on most street corners. Part of the problem is the lack of smoke free areas – restaurants are crowded with smokers, as are bars and other public places.
All in all, this spells disaster to health officials and welfare programs that must help those in need. In Europe, the state-run social-welfare system is stressed with an annual $100 billion cost, a statistic that nearly matches that of the United States, $96.7 billion.
Never forget the Science: Smoking Kills
It’s key here to remember that smoking kills: plain and simple. As stated above, the US sees nearly held a million deaths a year related to smoking – more than all the deaths from “human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined”, according to the CDC.
Smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 time, stroke by 2 to 4 times, increases the likelihood of lung cancer by 23 times in men, 13 in women, and increases your risk of dying from chronic lung diseases by 12 to 13 times, according to the CDC. It also directly causes such cancers as acute myeloid leukemia, bladder cancer, cancer of the cervix, cancer of the esophagus, kidney cancer, and cancer of the larynx, just to name a few.
Thanks to the Center for Disease Control for statistics, health information, and other data.