Friday, August 24, 2012

"Today I Don't Smoke"

Note: "Russell's Ken-Bun-Ki" is a series of articles I wrote for my Japanese City Hall newsletter back in 1996. They were articles about life in America or life in Japan as experienced by an American. This one is from August 22, 1996.

I am not a smoker, but when I am out drinking I occasionally light up. I'm not sure why but when I'm out with friends talking a cigarette can taste really good. However, basically I am not a smoker, so no matter how delicious the taste may be, when I am with children I never smoke. This is because tobacco smoke can harm an effect on childrens' still growing lungs. The Japan Underage Smoking Law was passed in 1900 due to health concerns. Also, in rooms with central air I don't smoke. Even if I like the taste of a cigarette, a smoky room with no ventilation makes me feel sick.

When I was a child my father would always smoke, so I was used to the smell. As I got older and went away to college, when I came home during the summers I would suddenly notice the smell of the house. That is when I really started trying to get my father to quit smoking. Eventually my father got sick and did decide to quit. This was only a few years ago.

I have two requests for people who do smoke:
1. If there are people around, before lighting up please ask them, "Do you mind if I smoke?"
2. Please don't smoke and walk at the same time. There are people who hate cigarette smoke, so please try to smoke with good manners.

Obviously, this was 1. written MANY years ago, and 2. written for Japanese people.

Japan Tobacco, the monopoly corporation that sells all of Japan's cigarettes is (or, atleast, was) majority owned by the Japanese government. So for years while the rest of the world's health organizations AND the actual World Health Organization came out and declared how bad cigarettes are for your health, the Japanese government shrugged their collective shoulders and said, "Really? Let's keep looking into it." Japan still has cigarette vending machines, and only recently (as in, the last 15 years or so) had ANY system to try to keep underage people from using them. I am not making this up.

The title of this article was a play on a then-current advertising campaign called, "Today I Smoke." I was so angry at this that I wrote this article. I had to tone down my rhetoric, of course, but still.... ! And yes, there was still advertising for cigarettes in Japan. I want to say there were TV commercials, too, but I'm not absolutely sure about that. I do remember the magazine and newspaper ads, though.

At every school event I ever went to the mothers would complain about the smokers. It was sad.

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