My first cigarette

Many people will always say you have to try things to know whether you like it and in many cases that is true but I have never ever felt the urge to smoke a cigarette. I guess that mainly stems from the fact that I come from a family where no one smokes. The only person who has ever smoked in my whole extended family that I can remember is one of my uncles (who has now completely kicked the habit).

Many may say its peer pressure but even that has had no bearing on me deciding not to smoke. The majority of my friends smoke but standing amongst them whilst they smoke has never made me feel the pressure that I have to join in. They respect the fact that I have decided smoking is not for me and I respect the fact that they enjoy smoking and it is that sort of equilibrium, of mutual respect which I think is lacking in this world.   

Too often there is a typical stereotypical view where smokers are somehow demonized as a group who are somehow the root of all health problems in the world. Governments go around banning people from smoking in public areas whilst non smokers hold their breath while they walk past smokers for fear of ‘getting’ lung cancer. The fact that in many cities the pollution is more likely to cause health problems than someone smoking, or the fact that the inactive lifestyle we live these days is more likely to cause health problem doesn’t seem to cross people’s minds.  

Pollution in Mexico City is equivalent to smoking 37 cigarettes a day does not seem to matter and the same is true in many big cities. It’s almost as if society has accepted that city pollution is alright yet smoke from cigarettes is inherently bad. I’m not denying the fact that cigarettes are bad for someone’s health merely that it’s a personal choice and we face health hazards each day.

I remember back in the days I used to live in Hong Kong I used to go to the beach a lot and swim in the water. The water was very polluted on many occasions I would find syringes in the water there was no telling what disease was on them, I was careful to avoid them.  The fact was to me it was an acceptable risk and I imagine that is the same for my friends who smoke for me it is an acceptable risk being around them while they smoke too.

Smoking is not something I feel the need to do, drinking however is another matter. That is where when I started to drink it was due to peer pressure. In our society there is now almost an expectation that everyone drinks alcohol it becomes something which is considered normal when you go out generally people drink wine or beer even in Dubai there was a culture amongst many of drinking.

That in general again is wrong the media and other seem to clamp down on smoking yet drinking because of its acceptability socially seems to get less attention and is not seen as harmful. It is perfectly acceptable for someone to go out and drink a lot, in the process getting completely drunk and damaging their livers yet if you smoke it is seen as somehow wrong in many circles. There is more of a stigma attached to it when someone is seen to be smoking instantaneously many will come up with image of them being unhealthy etc.

A friend of mine for instance used to be classed as an alcoholic he has since completely stopped drinking. Yet he finds it very hard to avoid it especially when surrounded by people he does work with, sometimes people comment that he’s weird or that by not drinking it makes it harder for him to fit in. That to me summarizes the whole issue it is more the social construct of our society where we think some drugs are somehow alright and that we all should use them yet others are somehow bad. In the end it is the person doing the drug which should be able to decide if they want to use a certain drug.

It’s this contradictory society we live in where alcohol is somehow thought of as practically normal and safe yet the minute you mention marijuana it somehow changes because it is illegal and thought of as dangerous. The fact that numerous studies suggests that marijuana is potentially less lethal than alcohol does not seem to matter all that seems to matter is the fact that without evidence society has branded marijuana bad, alcohol good.

That is the state of our society and that is what I object to I hardly drink and have never smoked or taken drugs but I believe the fundamental way which our societies and government treats drugs is wrong. It is the persons’ choice it is not for society to tell people that they shouldn’t take drugs; neither does outlawing drugs stop people from using them. We can spend billions locking people up and attempting to eradicate drugs but it hasn’t worked in the past and it won’t somehow magically work in the future.

What is needed in my opinion is regulation we can’t stop people from taking drugs it is their choice. What governments should focus on though is mitigating the harms and providing treatments for people who want to kick the habit be it smoking, alcohol, marijuana or other drugs. By sending less people to prison for drug related offences money can be poured into such programs be it needle exchanges, methadone substitution or counselling.

At the same time crimes related to the illegal trade would decrease and this silly war on drugs which has never worked can end. I believe it is only then that the world can truly say that it has a sensible, positive and effective drug policy for the 21st century.

People sometimes ask me why I am for regulation when I have never used drugs I say to them that you don’t have to do drugs to see that our current policies are wrong, you don’t have to do drugs to see how unfair the system is and you don’t have to drugs to realise that the war on drugs has not worked and will not work.

It’s about standing up for a belief that things can be different, things can be better and the only way is through better drug laws.  

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