A smokers delight

This city is meant for smokers.

Every inhale and exhale marks a step towards self-destruction. Just like a cigarette has the potential to sooth, to calm, to make normal, so this city has such potential. But, behind this benevolent aspect lies the macabre side of the smoke of the city-as-cigarette that kills. That’s why I light one up.

Maybe by confronting it head on we can cheat death? Better yet, turn death-in-potens to life-in-potens.

Some statistics

Tobacco harms the health, the treasury, and the spirit of Bosnia and Herzegovina.” While we can agree on the first (and maybe the second) statement, the third one is simply ludicrous. What do they even mean with “the spirit of Bosnia and Hercegovina?”

I would argue on the contrary that smoking adds to a specific life ‘spirit’ in this country. Can it not be that lighting a cigarette signifies for some (many?) an act of normality? In the gesture of inhaling and exhaling, that has become intuitive, one performs routine. In a place where many started smoking during the war by prescription of doctors, is it not possible that consuming cigarettes is sensible?

Don’t get me wrong. I am by no means denying the vultaristic venture of the global tobacco industry. And I am also not denying the devastating effects the drug has on our (physical) health. But, to miss the social context of smoking makes us resort to some imperious high ground moral judging.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is rocking the 8th place in number of cigarettes per adult per year (2,278). It’s fascinating that Eastern European countries are the leaders in this list…

Café society

Maybe smoking is so prevalent due to the fact that going to cafes and drinking coffee is in many parts of this region of the world a social fact. A cigarette in this setting is not and add on, but it’s part of the experience. Maybe health – physical that is – is not so fetishized in Bosnia and Herzegovina?

Like Miljenko Jergović wrote beautifully in his short novel Sarajevo Marlboro on life in besieged Sarajevo: “Among his staple of ingredients was the odd spoonful of Bosnian metaphysics that was strongly opposed to the idea of nutrition or a healthy diet, beings more interested in unadulterated hedonism.”

 

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