Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

Smoking culture breeds smog tolerance > Global Times

Illustration: Liu Rui


Smoking culture breeds smog tolerance

Global Times | Matthew Dalton
Published on February 04, 2013 19:38

Illustration: Liu Rui

As I am writing this, the air is “hazardous” as it has been for countless days over the past month. Days of wearing masks when I go outside has got me thinking about how things have gotten this bad and why little is being done to stop it.

We all know the most common answer. Putting limits on air pollution means lost revenues and hurting the economy. Because of this, China decides that it would rather continue breathing in harmful air because the economic benefits outweigh the dangers. It can’t quit.

Now let’s take things down a notch or two, from a national level, to an individual level.

Just like smog, smoking can lead to cancer, heart disease, and birth defects. These threats have been proven, and are hurting and killing the ones we love and care about on a daily basis.

And just like smog, decisions are made by smokers day after day to ignore these risks and to continue to smoke. And their decisions don’t just affect them, but, thanks to secondhand smoke, the people around them.

The reasons why people smoke are many. Some do it because it looks cool, others because it feels good, and more yet because of peer pressure.

But in the end, the decision is made to breathe in toxic air. And, as everyone knows, once you start, you become addicted, and it’s very hard to quit.

However, when we scale up, the same factors apply. Just as air pollution is largely driven by the government’s addiction to GDP over improving air quality, the smoking industry continues for the same economic reasons.

The National Tobacco Corporation (NTC), the State-owned tobacco monopoly, itself makes up a massive 7 to 10 percent of government revenue. Should the government actually enforce the smoking laws that have been in place for years, the NTC would be affected, and as a result, government revenue would decline.

And we are all aware that that this is sadly unlikely in this “getting rich is glorious” society.

The NTC which produces the dangerous smoke people choose to breathe and the factories which produce the smog we unwillingly breathe hold massive influence when it comes to government decisions.

The result is a smoking culture pushed by big tobacco and a country which continues to be blanketed in air pollution, all in the name of GDP, without heed to people’s lives.

There is a catch in all of this, however. As the quality of life decreases and GDP continues to be a priority, China may find that its rich, along with the businesses they are attached to, will increasingly flee the country.

It may also find that foreign firms might opt for a more livable country to do business as well. This may already be happening, diminishing China’s current GDP efforts.

Aside from GDP, ignorance is perhaps an even more disturbing cause for China’s current society of smoke. We might be well-informed about the dangers of smog and smoking, but the sad truth is many in China are not aware of the dangers.

According to the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project in 2009, a mere 68 percent of Chinese smokers believe that smoking can lead to lung cancer, and just 54 percent of smokers believe that secondhand smoke causes lung cancer in nonsmokers.

There is a major lack of awareness in China over the harm smoking can cause, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if this deficiency was intentionally caused by the interest groups previously mentioned.

However, if so many smokers refuse to believe the harm cigarette smoke causes to their bodies, it diminishes the danger posed by hazardous air pollution, making ignorance yet another reason why the smoking culture is detrimental in efforts for cleaner air.

In such circumstances, while people discuss GDP growth as the main driving force for the harmful smog we are often exposed to, we should also consider China’s smoking culture and all that comes with it as just as detrimental.

After all, if the air inside the restaurant is just as dirty as the air outside, the psychological impact of the pollution is lessened.

Until this smoking society is done, dangers will continue to be ignored, and the population will continue to get sicker.

In China, like it or not, we all are smokers.

The author is a Beijing-based freelance writer.

Posted in: View Points

Actions: E-mail | Permalink | Comments (0) | Kick it! | DZone it! |

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>