Growing up, I thought smoking was cool, and why wouldn’t I?
Everybody cool was smoking cigarettes. From the Toscaneli cigar that dangled off Clint Eastwood’s lips as he looked at the horizon, to the Charminar Feluda smoked as he furrowed his brows in concentration, the cigarette was associated with everything glamorous. Heck, even my grandfather, who, for me, embodies wisdom, was smoking a full packet of Gold Flake a day.
There was no reason for me to not want to smoke. Maybe the smell was a little bit nauseating, but I could get used to it. What could go wrong?
The government did not understand that my question was rhetorical, and decided to answer it. It started with the ban on advertising tobacco products anywhere. Soon after, every time there was a scene in a movie with tobacco in it, they had to display “Smoking Kills” on the screen.
Then came the vicious advertisements of Gutkha Mukesh, which all theaters were compelled to play right before any movie started. Not to forget, the other video in which you hear the sinister voice of the narrator as he squeezed a sponge full of tar showing how much of carcinogen gets into the lungs of a smoker. When this was not enough, the anti-tobacco campaigns and workshops at my school all started droning the same thing over and over again, “Smoking Kills”. There were pictures of John Terry’s infected lungs on cigarette packets!
My daydreams, and the Phillip Morris empire, were turning into a nightmare.
It suddenly started becoming uncool to smoke.
The Marlboro Man was no longer the most famous smoker, Gutkha Mukesh was. Sabyasachi’s portrayal of Feluda smoked a lot fewer cigarettes than Soumitra’s did, almost to the point of looking guilty every time he lit one up. My grandfather quit tobacco when he was taken to the hospital after complaining of severe chest pain.
Smoking started becoming linked to every terrible disease known to man. Smoking causes cancer. Smoking causes impotence. Smoking causes bad teeth! In a terrible twist of irony, four of the actors who portrayed the Marlboro Man, died of smoking related diseases.
The charm of smoking is today gone. It is no longer a symbol of sophistication but a badge of shame. Today, smokers are limited to dark alleys, paan-shops, and the not-so-glorious smoking rooms in airports and hotels. The more ignominious of the lot are “vaping”, the cool term coined to justify the act of smoking e-cigarettes.
All the coolness of being a smoker is gone, when you light up a cigarette in a bus, and people start coughing to indicate their displeasure.
All the pride of being a smoker disappears when the flight attendant sweetly reminds you that there are smoke detectors in the lavatory, so do not try and be sneaky.
All the glory of being a smoker is gone, when one has to enter a special glass-panelled “Smoking Room” to smoke, along with a dozen other people uncomfortably shuffling around, all trying to look away from each other.
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Update: This blogpost placed second in this event, and this also became the most viewed blogpost in my blog as of 14th February 2017, registering an unbelievable 1600+ views. Thank you all so much!