Anybody Can join
Response to a 18 Jan @MayaVillage Tweet: Confessions of a Male Smoker
Published: 30 January, 2012
I am just a person who loves almost everything about women.
Listed in Conception, Pregnancy, Women's rights, Feminism
The question at hand is, “how do expecting mothers avoid second hand smoking [in Dhaka]?” Considering the current social, cultural and even the political situation of Bangladesh, there is only one outright answer: expecting mothers cannot get out of their rooms! On top of that, if the spouse is not sensitive to her, and the whole concept of motherhood, the solution becomes improbable and not to mention that second hand smoking becomes almost impossible to avoid.
Smoking is a cancer that has not only instilled itself within a few societies but the whole word. In a developing country like ours human rights are hard to come by. Also, the patriarchal sociocultural structure makes it even more difficult for women to exercise whatever rights that may be deemed to be substantive. Smoking (first hand) is something that has been considered to be a health issue only around a couple of decades back, and it is only very recently that nation states – mostly, if not solely, the developed ones – have been taking steps to reduce smoking (both first and second hand) and its effects. North Americans, particularly after a waitress in New York went to court blaming second hand smoking at her workplace for her cancer, were the first to abolish smoking in public spaces. They were followed by the Europeans and the practice of smoking in public places has been significantly reduced due to the fact that these governments took the legal initiatives to reduce the effects of the problem.
Even if the role of the state is one of the most important ones, the scope of a positive change within an acceptable timeframe remains more than questionable in Bangladesh. There are various reasons to be cynical about the immediate effects of the role of the state; and for now let us take the problem of dowry for a quick illustration. The practice has been made illegal in Bangladesh and I know that you and I would both love to say, “Let’s get rid of dowry this year.” Do you think that we can actually achieve this in such a short period of time even with the help of the social workers, NGOs, CSOs and other such groups? The only initiative that the Government of Bangladesh has taken that has had a visible effect on the issue of smoking is banning advertisements of tobacco related products and printing large warning signs in cigarette packs. I may be wrong but I do not think any of the warning signs refer to second hand smoking and let alone its effects on expecting mothers or maternity in general.
The issue of smoking is an intricate one and there are no easy solutions for the members of the society to avoid it. There is absolutely no doubt in the fact that smoking leads to many diseases and eventually death – not only for the smoker but also for the people around them. Our most basic and utmost right is the right to live, which is the most basic human right. I can stretch the argument a little bit and can assert that the act of smoking to be equivalent to euthanasia. If we cannot permit suicide, why should we allow smoking? Again, for practical reasons we just can’t abolish smoking but we should at least be doing our best so that the people who do not smoke do not suffer from the act. And this should be truer for expecting mothers as it does not involve the life of only one person but also includes the expecting. On a personal note, I believe that children, which in my case starts from the decision to have a child to the process of maternity to child rearing (and of course the child itself), is not only one of the most beautiful aspects of life but it is also the most important fabric of producing a proper functioning society. Hence, the fact that women can hardly go to places of interest and/or stay within the walls of their own homes due to second hand smoking is a heinous crime.
The only solution so far for expecting mothers to avoid smoking that had been provided was at the beginning of the dialogue… with sarcasm, irony and most of all anger among many other conflicting emotions. Apart from that, certain nuances of the problem have been brought forward. Nevertheless, the first step to the most logical, which does not necessarily refer to the most practical and/or the most effective, procedure that can tackle this problem would be what the aforementioned developed countries have taken: ban smoking in public places. From then onwards stricter laws along with awareness programs should minimize the problem over time. A legal stance is essential and necessary but our executive is not effective enough to implement them, especially with an issue that can be said not to be highly prioritized by the government. So what can we really do? Probably the only answer that can bring the most immediate change is awareness.
In my opinion, the percentage of women who are actually aware of the fact that second hand smoking can lead to serious health issues is extremely low and the fact that when they are expecting a child second hand smoking can actually transfer traits to their children that can affect them during their whole lifetime is next to none. Who am I kidding? Even most men do not know how injurious second hand smoking can be for them; their children; their wives, pregnant or not. I know that the issue is to refer to Dhaka for this particular blog, but the city’s population is estimated to be over 15 million. With the level of poverty I really cannot expect our citizens to be very aware. Maybe they are aware, but I think their actions beg to differ. This is not only pertinent to the poor but also to the affluent ones. I do not find that there are too many, if any, restaurants where smoking is not allowed. There may be designated areas but they are never enclosed and the smoke is free to travel to anyone’s lungs whether they choose it or not. Of course, there are fast food restaurants where smoking is not allowed, but wouldn’t you like to sit with your partner who is expecting a child at a nice restaurant for a special dinner? Also, what really is the total percentage who is able to afford KFC or Pizza Hut or even CP Chicken? Well, we cannot completely disregard these establishments though. I believe they hold the key to one of the major solutions.
It is the establishments that need to come forward to tackle the problem of smoking. They should take it upon themselves to provide people with a smoke free environment. I do not really think that businesses will find it feasible to have enclosed areas only for women who are expecting. Also, it is not only pregnant women who suffer from second hand smoking, so there should at least be designated enclosed areas for smokers like the ones they have at Kozmo. Even then these areas need to have quality smoke suction mechanisms so that smokers do not suffer from one cigarette in multiple-folds. One can be vindictive and say, “Hell with the smokers!” However, at the end of the day they are human. So, why not just disallow smoking in all public establishments? The government does not have the resources to enforce such rules, so why don’t the owners take a moral stance as well as the initiative to reduce it? I specifically mention the moral aspect as there may be market issues in terms of competition as there is no sovereign implementing such laws to “all” the institutions.
The solution may have been referred to as “awareness” but in essence it is responsibility. I had mentioned awareness because we cannot expect to be responsible for something that we do not know the ins and outs of, at least at a rudimentary level. The responsibility of the state has been discussed; the responsibility of the different institutions and organizations have been discussed; and I think it is the men who needs to feel responsible for the women who plan to conceive a child at some point of their lives. Among the men it is the smokers who should be or feel the most responsible. I say this because not only am I a man, but I am also a smoker. The dialogue may sound hypocritical, but I think that nothing should ever stop anyone from feeling, believing or deducing what is right and expressing the ideas. Being a man I can claim that men should not only feel and be responsible to this particular issue but can help in overall women’s empowerment. There is no other manner to describe our society as well as it being a patriarchal one. No matter how hard it may be the case to digest but men run this world. Men need to be sensitive to women’s needs and desires, and make room for their empowerment and development. Men necessarily need not only make way for women in issues of governance, or only matters regarding employment and workplace, or only regarding education, but should do their level best to consider everything. And I believe everything involves women: a boy is given birth by a woman, a baby is fed by a woman, a woman provides most of the learning to her boy, when a baby goes to school he can have friends who are females or teachers who are women, a boy can have a sister, a boy can fall in love with a woman, the only way a man can have a child is with a woman, a man interacts with women at the workplace… I believe every aspect of our lives involve women.
When men cannot make life easier for women, they should do their best not to interfere with their livelihood. Now, this statement becomes more relevant to my position regarding the issue at hand. Being a smoker I may not be able to quit by the time I get married or have a child. However, I believe that I should do everything else possible not to further aggravate the issue. I can try my best to smoke as less as possible. I can smoke in the balcony or go out in the streets. I can spend more time with my partner when we cannot dine at a fancy restaurant due to second hand smoking. I can write about the issues that I may face with regards to a woman who is expecting and not have to ask how a woman can “avoid” second hand smoking, but what can I do so that she needs not to think about avoiding and increase her participation in and mobility within every corner of the city.
Post is also available at my weblog: http://knowledgeartsbin.weebly.com/open-blog-for-doodling-thoughts.html