Day 80 & 81: Up in Smoke
So I might have breezed by this in the past, but it’s time to get dirty my friends and talk about the absolutely overwhelming world of cigarettes in this massive land called China.
Yesterday I went in for my 14th billionth doctor’s appointment which is in a medical clinic on the 3rd floor (the entire building being the clinic). I got off the elevator on the 3rd floor to walk toward the sliding doors to the doctor’s office lobby, but was accosted by the salty sickness of tobacco smoke flames racing toward my eyes and lungs. INSIDE the building. Go outside for Pete’s SAKE. And what’s weird is I think they were all doctors.
So here’s what I found on the interweb:
“Yang Gonghuan, deputy director of the National Center of Disease Control of China, said that progress on tobacco control is not moving quickly because the government derives large tax revenues from tobacco sales, and the industry employs a large workforce.The Ministry said that as a “mid-term goal, all health administrations and half of the country’s healthcare facilities should be smoke-free by the end of 2010”.Nearly 60% of male Chinese doctors are smokers, which is the highest proportion in the world.” — Wikipedia
Also there’s absolutely NO laws to punish healthcare facilities that are smoking anywhere in the office — this means a doctor could be smoking while giving you a shot or slicing you open and have no recourse for it. EWWWWWWW.
So I’ll be honest, while I’m definitely not the biggest fan of second hand smoke, I can typically stand to be around it in very moderate quantities and due to my many-a-year-bartending even have a little nostalgia for the ol’ Marlboro smell (sorry mom). But often that gets completely destroyed by it’s terrible potency within a matter of seconds and I’m hacking and coughing and showcasing the most obnoxious signs I can think of to communicate that the smoke smell isn’t appreciated.
There’s a lot of smokers in New York (or so I thought) with about 16% of the adults in the city smoking. Certainly considerable, but taking it to China let’s give a couple statistics:
— 350 Million people in China smoke. (The population of the US is ~320 MM)
— China produces 42% of the world’s cigarettes.
— The government of China receives a HUGE kickback on the profits of cigarettes sold (about 10% government revenue) so there’s really no push to solve the destruction of people’s respiratory systems
— It’s considered a politeness and a MUST to give someone a cigarette as a sign of respect if they do you a favor or if it’s a business relationship. I’ve been offered them a few times and turned them down and have had conversations with my friends/colleagues about how rude I was perceived to be for not accepting the “gift”
And getting just into a little bit of my day-to-day experience outside of the doctor’s office — there isn’t a single cab (with the literal exception of one that I recall) that hasn’t absolutely and completely reeked of cigarette smoke. What’s hilarious about that is they have “no smoking” signs on the back of every cab driver’s seat, while he sits there puffing away and suffocating all passengers in the process.
I have a colleague who worked at Johnson & Johnson for awhile on Nicorette here in China, and this may be a total bastardization of her comments, but she said something like, “It was an absolute failure in the market place because it entered a country who doesn’t care if they smoke or not, people appear to live long enough, and the minister of health is an old man that smokes two packs a day. What’s the incentive here to stop smoking?”
Survey says: Deal with it. So on I go.