Friday May 25, 2018
Home > News > Society
Text:| Print|

How to stop quitting smoking

2012-05-08 15:52 Global Times     Web Editor: Xu Rui comment

  I've written before about how the anti-smoking campaign in Beijing can at times be a little overzealous. While thankfully I've never experienced exaggerated coughing from passersby in the street, (it's normally very real coughing) in the manner of a Bill Hicks sketch, there's a definite feeling among non-smokers that Beijing needs to act.

Actually, since the smoking ban in February last year, and the re-incarnation of the ban again this year, I have noticed a dramatic improvement. I've now been to two restaurants in the capital that don't provide ash-trays unless you ask for them. That's two more than when I arrived in the city in 2009.

There may be 300 million Chinese smokers, but as a foreign connoisseur of tobacco, life is not easy. Chinese cigarettes, thanks to the filters or the tobacco, taste like you're inhaling an unwashed paraffin lamp. Foreigners who arrive in the city rapidly gravitate to the stale, chemical taste of Zhongnanhai, solely because it's the lightest thing on the market.

If anything, the rate of smoking among foreigners has probably dropped, thanks to the taste of Chinese tobacco. And to help them quit, in 2007, China banned sales of tobacco by foreign supermarkets. Overnight foreign packets of tolerable death sticks vanished from shelves, to be replaced with small kiosks providing the gritty farmers choice of Honghe at five kuai ($0.79) per embolism.

Shortly afterwards, hospitals began to stop people smoking in the entranceways and halls, universities desperately tried to discourage students from puffing away outside the lecture rooms and labs, and it looked like China was making progress in the war on smokers.

More than once I've come close to giving up the dirty habit altogether, unable to get my favored rolling tobacco, or out of fear of becoming a public menace. It's still not on a par with the UK, where smokers are now demonized and outcast, but in 50 years, I can see that it will be.

On Hainan island, many men seemed to have given up on smoking completely, preferring to engage in the local pastime of chewing betel nut. An effective counter agent to nicotine withdrawal, until you see the medical warnings which explain that it gives you mouth cancer.

With so many reasons to stop, I thought that there was hope for a cleaner future in China, one free of the ills of tobacco smoke. But that was only until I discovered Brother Pipe.

Brother Pipe operates in the Gulou area of Beijing. It took several months for us to find each other, but Brother Pipe sells foreign tobacco, pipes, rolling papers and filters in Beijing. When I say foreign, I mean genuinely foreign, not counterfeit packages full of ground cigarette dust, like those sold on the stalls of Sanlitun.

Brother pipe single handedly undid all the good work that Chinese cigarettes, the smoking ban and market restrictions had made. He offered me a loyalty card.

Every time I purchase a packet of tobacco, I now receive a 10 percent discount. I can buy imported tobacco from England at cheaper prices than the UK. I wonder how many other entrepreneurs out there have taken up the same policy and broken the will of the few foreigners affected by China's attempts to kick the habit.

A loyalty card is the ultimate wrong in the big book of things that tobacconists should never be allowed to do. But, I shouldn't complain, apparently if I save up enough points I also get a prize. Hope it's a home chemotherapy kit.

Comments (0)

Copyright ©1999-2011 All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.