Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Other Side of Midnight

Yeah it's bad ... a compulsive habit that if we try 'n rationalise it - it doesn't make sense and yet we faithful few - the self-styled Keepers of the Flame - still indulge in a pastime which brings us some distraction and relief (some say it's an addiction for which the benefits are only in your mind ... hmmmm maybe).

In case you haven't figured it out yet, I'm talking about smoking - yes that socially taboo exercise of literally burning your money, killing yourself (and those around you), alienating yourself from the rest of humanity and you'll end up looking (and sometimes feeling) like a social leper.

Well at least that's the image the "righteous" among us would like to paint and the gullible, believe.

And so as of January 1 the
screws are tightened once again.

It's tough being "a smoker" these days - that label itself has such negative social connotations - thanks to the Singapore Government which is determined to stub it out from the lives of its children who are so easily swayed by public opinion, the media and the powers that be.

Will all the new measures work? Sure ... in part.
Will the numbers dip? Maybe ... With rising cigarette prices, the young and the less affluent may find it a squeeze forking out S$10 at a go. But prices have been rising steadily and the faithful (or stubborn or simply addicted according to your point of view) will take it in their stride.

So what then is the point of this exercise, really? To protect the non-smoking majority - the young, the desperate, the easily-swayed? Okay ... let's go with that...

In this rigid socially-controlled country aren't there bigger issues to deal with? I've never heard of any marriages/families/ relationships being torn apart cos of a smoker in the midst. I've known of many lives shattered because of gambling, hard drinking or whoring and yet somehow, these fly under the radar clouded by a lot of talk of " government safeguards" to protect the society.

The Government has loosened it controls on gambling. Two casinos are set to open, 4D outlets are just about everywhere you look complete with long lines of of hopefuls rushing to throw their money away on a million-to-one shot. Ain't they just burning their hard-earned money for no good reason. I wonder what socially-upright message this sends the young, the desperate and the easily swayed?
... Hmm why does that line sound so familiar?
Do people smoke because of choice, habit or compulsion? I guess that's up to each one of ponder. It's probably a little bit of all three.

Take a walk on a Friday night to Orchard Road, Boat Quay and such places and you'll see how many kids are out there drinking hard. Policing by night clubs, by the police? That's just for show. Is this a growing social problem? I guess not. But let's ban smoking in these places - that always helps! Yup - taking it out on smokers always seems to be the easy way out.

Prostitution in Singapore - it's a bigger issue than anyone cares to admit. It's not just in the backlanes of Geylang or in some seedy coffeshops. And let's not point the finger at the foreign girls that come to earn an "honest (?)" buck. Go surf the Net and you'll be amazed at what some of our sweet young things here would do for a handful of dollars or just some attention. But I guess this pales in comparison on the social taboo list when compared to the hellish vice of smoking.

At the end of the day, smokers are a resilent bunch. You hide their ashtrays, push them to the social fringe, stagmatise them, redicule them but they will prevail - quietly in corners where they have been ostracised - patiently enjoying a simple pleasure. Maybe the best our righteous society can hope for is that the cohort is a dying breed but I for one wouldn't hold my breath on that (yes the silly puns are intended)!!

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