Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Odyssey of a Smoker - Part 3

Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.

bidi packetsI'm not quite sure now why I started to smoke the bidis more regularly. This change in smoking habit happened about 8 years ago - not that long ago in the grand scheme of things but I can't really pinpoint a reason for the change. It did, however, happen suspiciously soon after re-confessing to my wife that I'm gay which sort-of coincided with my starting to spend time on the gay scene. 'Empirical evidence' would suggest that there is more boozing, drugging and smoking on the gay scene than in most other social environments but could that have been the reason? I don't know. Maybe.

I started to carry around a packet of bidis with me.

That has to be a slippery slope to becoming a much more regular smoker. And, before long, I was right at the bottom of that slope. In my mind though, I was still a non-smoker just as my mind still tells me that I'm a thin person. Bidis aren't 'real' cigarettes! They look interesting, they smell different, they taste different and they don't last as long as one of those increasingly villified cancer sticks commonly known as cigarettes. But, real or not, they sure cause havoc on one's throat!

Various websites, mostly those marketing bidis, extol the 'virtues' of bidis. Take this one for example:

Traditional Indian handmade beedies bidi biri cigarette are all one and the same called in different names throughout the world. Century old traditional method is followed for carefully selecting right quality Tendu Leaf that grows naturally in tropical forest. Since quality tobacco is chosen from the best farms and then blended to give perfect flavour, taste and aroma. Indian Bidies are 100% hand rolled dried at room temperature for 2 days and then finally dried in specially designed drying chamber. (Tandoor). Best quality natural tendu leaf and perfect blend of rich tobacco makes INDIAN bidi an ideal choice for perfect smoke. More and more people are shifting to smoke BEEDIES ,because of the herbal qualities and they also have less harmful properties.

More than 700 Trillion BEEDIES or BIRI are smoked annually, with the numbers increasing phenomenally every year.
Beedies have no paper.
Beedies are cheaper.
Beedies have unique lingering taste.
Tobacco content in Beedies is only 10-20%.
Tobacco in Beedies is used in natural form.
Beedies are healthier compared to other smokes.
Beedies has 100% natural ingredients.
Smoking a Beedie gives a very satisfying experience.

Along with all that, some of these sites talk of how bidi-manufacture preserves traditional values and creates job opportunities for thousands and thousands of people.

Well, they would say that, wouldn't they? Of course they neglect to say what an exploitative industry (particularly as regards children) it can be and they ignore the fact that bidis are actually MORE harmful than regular cigarettes. Some studies suggest that one bidi produces more than 3 times the carbon monoxide and nicotine than one cigarette and more than 5 times the amount of tar than one cigarette.

My throat and lungs were beginning to tell me just that.

I'd met C who was to become my boyfriend for close on 7 years soon after becoming a regular bidi-smoker. He was (and is) a heavy smoker and his brand of choice is Craven A, a menthol cigarette. Anyone who has tried a menthol cigarette will know that whatever problems you may have with the taste, it gives a beguiling sense of cool smoothness. The perfect antidote to a throat ravaged by bidi-smoking!

I started smoking Craven A.
Craven A menthol
In the land of the hardened smoker, there is something rather naff about menthol cigarettes. A real man doesn't smoke them, women do! My wife, who'd long given up cigarettes, used to be a Marlboro Red addict. She was appalled that I'd taken up smoking so late in life and she was appalled by my choice of cigarette.

'If you must smoke, smoke Camel or something decent,' she said. Marlboros weren't sold in South Africa at the time - she'd have suggested them if they were. Although she didn't say so, she was probably thinking, 'What's he doing smoking such a moffie cigarette?' Ok, maybe she didn't think that but I do seem to have come across more gay guys that smoke menthol than straight guys. (*Joke Alert* - Next thing, I'll be accused of being homophobic!)

My kids were also appalled by my smoking. They continue to be appalled by it. Not only does it appall them, sometimes it really upsets them. But, as the saying goes, 'you can't put a wise head on old shoulders.' Yes, I know, I've got that wrong but it makes sense in this context.

The Marlboro man and the cigarettes that killed himAnd then, in 2001, I moved to Brighton for 8 months. At first I tried various UK menthol brands but didn't really take to them. So, like all the other lemmings, I was lured into smoking Marlboro Lights. And, now, 4 years later, I'm still smoking them.

Marlboro Lights - roughly £5 per packet. 1-2 packets a day.

Apply some old-fashioned arithmetic to that and the sums start looking silly. Not just silly, just plain stupid. What was that I said about wisdom and old heads?

You'd think that I'd have cut down now since being unemployed these last few months. Nope - my brain doesn't work that way! I puffed away at my regular rate until the money burnt up. Now that I'm living on borrowed money, it does seem rather obscene to spend that money on exhorbitantly priced fags. Giving up altogether is an option, of course. But, I haven't quite reached that stage.

Instead, I've gone full circle and I'm smoking roll-ups again.

Not Borkum Riff cherry flavour this time but Golden Virginia rolling tobacco. Acceptable enough, but vile stuff if the truth be told. Soggy roll-ups and nicotine-stained fingers don't make for the prettiest sight. With that in mind, it must be time to consider giving up for good. But, I start a new job this week - I'll be earning good money again.

Oh stuff it, I'm off to roll another.
Golden Virginia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

don't be so rude about beedies, because they ARE differents sort of beedies. Do not forget to mention pure herbal beedies without tobacco ...
Concerning children labor, keep in mind ALL beedies manufacturers are not employing children ...
Have a look at www.beedies.net

1:47 am  

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