By Wayne Chan
Northwest Asian Weekly
As we’ve all recently celebrated World No Tobacco Day … actually, let me rephrase that. I may be overstating things.
As we’ve all observed World No Tobacco Day … no, that’s not exactly right, either. Let me try one more time.
As we’ve all let World No Tobacco Day pass without knowing there was even such a day but basically think it’s a good idea (OK, that’s probably more realistic), a new study has come out from the World Health Organization. The report states that China currently has 350 million smokers.
That’s right — 350 MILLION smokers. That means China has more smokers than the United States has people. It means that anyone in China with a video camera can point their camera in any direction and shoot their own Fellini movie. It also means that anyone in the teeth whitening business in China is probably driving a Mercedes.
This really doesn’t come as a surprise to me. It shouldn’t come to a surprise to anyone who has traveled to China within the last 10 years. Anyone who has done business in China knows that the two things you will encounter during the trip is smoking and drinking.
The Chinese government has recently made efforts to curb the explosive growth of tobacco use in China.
And, as it turns out, China’s tobacco industry is wholly owned and operated by … wait for it … the Chinese government.
It kind of makes you wonder if someone over there ought to make up their mind.
While I would hope that the Chinese would stop these behaviors for their own health, I’d be even happier if they stopped just for me.
You see, I am physically unable to smoke or drink. I can’t smoke even if I want to. With the slightest puff of smoke, I begin coughing, hacking, and wheezing as if a SWAT team had lobbed in a canister of tear gas on my lap. And with anything more than one glass of wine, I pass out, as if, well … as if a SWAT team had lobbed in a canister of tear gas on my lap.
This condition is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it basically ensures that I’ll never become addicted to cigarettes or alcohol. In fact, it would be great if I had the same reactions after eating a slice of pepperoni pizza.
Unfortunately, it’s a curse whenever I have to go to China. Upon meeting anyone — either for a business meeting or a social gathering — I am inundated with cigarettes and alcohol.
With alcohol, particularly in a social setting, I will inevitably meet up with someone whose sole purpose in life seems to be to get me to drink hard liquor. I’ve learned that it’s nearly impossible to come up with a clever excuse to not drink. No excuse is good enough to not drink.
On the few occasions when I’ve actually told the truth about my weakness to alcohol, I’ll get a slap on the back and a shot of vodka in return. It turns out that their main objective was to get me to pass out in the first place.
At some meetings, I’ve gotten cartons of Chinese-made cigarettes as presents. I never know what to say.
“Ooh, thank you so much. These will go great with the bottle of vodka I was given yesterday!” ♦
Wayne Chan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.