About three months ago I picked up a contract with a client who wanted me to work onsite in their office in Sydney’s city centre. It’s been a while since I’ve worked in the city. Sure I’ve popped in for meetings or client visits. But it has probably been more than 10 years since I’ve had to travel into the city on a daily basis.
At first I quite enjoyed it. The early morning ferry ride followed by the hustle and bustle of my walk up George Street. But then I started to notice something, especially as I waited to cross the road on a crowded street corner.
When did everyone start smoking again?
As I looked around me it seemed like nearly everyone had a burning cigarette in their hand: young people; old people; middle-aged people; men; women; boys; girls; office workers in their suits; tradies in their overalls; judges in their wigs.
Everywhere I turned people were sucking them in and puffing them out. Blowing their smoke over their shoulder and into my face as I walked behind them on a crowded footpath.
Cigarettes. Dirty, stinking cancer-causing cigarettes.
What’s going on people? I thought we were all over the smoking thing?
I thought we had left the durries behind us in the 90s, along with the line-dancing, hypercolour t-shirts and the Atkins Diet? Tossing them in the bin when we were told that tobacco smoke is laden with cancer-causing toxins like arsenic, cyanide and formaldehyde.
I thought we were all freaked out by the statistics. Freaked out by the fact that every week in Australia 290 people die from smoking related illnesses. Read that again people, 290 EVERY WEEK who didn’t have to die.
Smoking is the largest single preventable cause of death and disease in Australia. And that smoke that wafted into my face as I walked the city streets – what they like to call the ‘passive smoke’ – well, it increases the risk of heart disease, asthma, cancer and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
So, what is going on? Why on earth are people still smoking?
And I’m not just talking about a few people. From what I was seeing on my morning walk to work there are still lots of people who smoke.
Look, I know – it’s not an easy thing to give up. Yes, yes. I know that. Been there, don’t that (in my younger and more ‘impressionable’ days).
But surely watching people die from cancer is much, much harder.
So, do you still smoke? Or are you, like me, confounded that there are so many of us still happily puffing away?