On page 29 of the mainstream English Tabloid, Daily Mail, September 3rd 2015, was a gruesome photograph that attracted my attention. A skull and pieces of scattered skeletons. Human remains. Well, well, well. Being shown grisly, hideous and gruesome images, these days, is as “normal” as having breakfast. Whether in blogs, You Tube or WhatsApp, we are “officially” desensitised with gory savageness. Nevertheless, the Daily Mail snapshot was macabre for a reason. Not aimed at glorifying human tragedy- like our internet- thanks God, most newspapers still upheld traditional restrain and etiquette in social shock and info.
The said remains revved back to the 1650 British Civil War; and were of young 5,000 Scottish soldiers killed, brutally. We forget that our first world friends used to butcher each other a couple of centuries ago. What goes in Africa now, happened elsewhere already. Listen to some of the phrases describing the incident whereby the captured Scottish fighters were tortured before being butchered. “Most suffered from poor nutrition...” Or, “they were predominantly aged between 13 and 25.”
Fast forward to the 1990s when child soldiers fought for Liberia’s Charles Taylor. At least 200,000 lives lost according to Global Security Org. Taylor is currently, serving 50 years in jail for murder, terror and rape. Oh, the rashness of war rape! Young Congolese soldiers spoke on camera in a recent documentary (“Seeds of Hope” by Fiona Lloyd- Davies) of how they raped a group of women in Minova, eastern Congo in 2012. UN claimed 130 females some as young as six, were sexually violated. Many are now mothers of fatherless kids.
Africa continues bleeding...
And that blood like all universal sanguine fluids has oozed elsewhere before. To return to our English tabloid. On the same page further down a headline screamed: “Stub it Out! Council will ban all cigarette breaks!”
Alas the ongoing smoking saga of the rich world!
In England particularly, no smoking in public establishments was legislated by the Labour government in 2007. The decision was proclaimed after years of campaigns by health institutions. The British Lung Foundation lately confirmed 35,000 deaths annually because of cigarette related cancer in the UK. The ban requires smokers to vacate premises to puff. This means congested, oxygen-deprived, doorways.
Now. Noise keeps barking from pro smoking campaigners who argue their right to have a fag. Nottinghamshire Council said workers cannot smoke and would “discipline workers who were caught smoking in paid hours.”
Daily Mail’s, Andy Dolan: “Even employees smoking while walking to or from work will be at risk of sanctions if they are wearing council uniform.” On the same news story, a photograph of an ex Mayor for Gloucester barred to board a train because she reminded a train guard to pick up a cigarette stub he had chucked. It all caused so much fury that the railway company had to apologise and its employee reprimanded. As you can see cigarette smoking causes all sorts of acrimony. Pro smokers always say it is a right. Some argue cars and factories emit more pollution. Some say they just smoke one a day. Few have introduced electric cigarette to their menu. Meantime lung cancer deaths remain unforgiving, relentless.
What is all this about?
While Europeans wrestle and debate, we in Africa are babies. Smoking is still a non-issue. Just observe wherever there is a congregation of Africans, you will hardly see smokers lighting up. Scattered individuals would discreetly leave, drag, and whiff their tobacco outside. It is not as if we do not have the tradition. In rural Africa, it is common to see the odd peasant chewing or sniffing tobacco, called Ugoro in Ki-Swahili.
Wide spread smoking remains distant Pluto on the continent.
But dynamics are changing. Bored, or excited, young people fascinated with external influences are joining the cause of weed, Spliff and Marijuana plus cigarettes.
In a recent interview with France’s TV Monde, Tobacco expert and researcher, Christian Chavalier (pictured above) said since 2006 there has been a soar of 70% cigarette smoking in Africa, which is, predicted to increase by 40 % in 2030. We are going to be facing epidemics like HIV, Tuberculosis, Malaria, and Ebola, he argued.
A small town called Mekele in Ethiopia banned public smoking, since January 2015. The initiative was specifically taken by Hiriti cafe where clients were unhappy.
Asked what should be done, Mr Chavalier said African governments should press home the idea that smoking is unhealthy. Youths need to be reminded it is not cool to roast and bake lungs for such a useless, senseless habit. Like everything that comes from the advanced world, we should only take the good stuff.
Published in Informer East Africa September 2015