I was never much of a smoker back in the US. Maybe I’d bum the occasional butt once or twice a month after a few drinks but that was it. But then I moved to China, the cigarette capital of the planet, where packs cost a dollar fifty and if you don’t smoke you might as well be wearing a sign that says “I’M A VIRGIN.” Everyone smokes and you can smoke EVERYWHERE. Taxis, Bars, Clubs, Restaurants, schools, convenience stores, HOSPITALS. All cigarette safe zones. I was once in an elevator with a cop who felt it was the appropriate time and place to start cranking a hoon. There were kids in that elevator. Savage AF. One bar I used to frequent always had a platter of complimentary cigarettes on the counter for patrons and another popular watering hole in town has a special called “Free Cigarette Sundays.” I’ve come across arcade claw machines around Shanghai filled with nothing but cigarette packs on more than one occasion.
And at Chinese weddings Cigarettes are often placed in bowls on each table during the reception and then given out as party favors.
It’s like the Surgeon’s General Warning was never translated into Mandarin. There is even something in China called “Cigarette Etiquette,” a concept that is eloquently summed up in this China Daily article:
“Serving a cigarette is good manners. When we meet our boss, we serve a cigarette to him to show our respect. When we talk to somebody, we offer a cigarette as a peace offering, which will build trust observably. We thank our plumber with his fee and a cigarette, We serve a cigarette to a guest, suggesting “You are very welcome.” A cigarette (a nice cigarette is better) is an external, material expression of a compliment. To our shy, not-good-with-words Chinese, cigarettes helps us talk.”
Everyone knows that manners make the man so needless to say I ended up picking up a cigarette habit my first year in China. My thinking was that if the smog was already gonna give me Cancer, might as well crank a few hoons and enjoy the ride. I’m far from the only expat that China has converted into a smoker either. Hell, Francis was only in China for 7 days and is the most health conscious person I’ve ever met and even he was cranking hoons on his own accord his last night in the country. China seduces you.
I’m not trying to glorify smoking cigarettes in this blog though. My grandma died of smoking-induced cancer before I was born and Lung Darts are currently on track to kill 200 million chinese people this century (Hoons: 1 China: -200,000,000). While cranking hoons makes for great content, I’m currently actively trying to quit.
To be fair though, China seems to now be actually taking some steps to combat their country’s crippling addiction to tobacco, at least in first tier cities like Shanghai. For years they would put in place public smoking bans that would be completely ignored by everyone, including the police who’s job it was to enforce it.
But last month a new indoor smoking ban came into effect in Shanghai that venues actually seem to be enforcing. People have by and large stopped smoking inside a majority of the restaurants, bars, and clubs in the city. The free cigarette platter at my local watering hole is nowhere to be seen. It’s spooky. China doesn’t quite feel quite like China anymore. Thankfully, all I have to do is walk 3 feet outside central Shanghai and I’m back in the Hoontopia I’ve grown accustomed to. We’ll have to wait and see if this ban is still being enforced a couple months down the line but for now it looks like it’s time to buy a vape and start reminiscing about the golden days. Don’t cry because you can’t smoke indoors anymore, smile because you could smoke indoors for WAY longer than should have ever been legal.
P.S. While Francis was in town I took him to the Shanghai Tobacco Museum in honor of #HoonHistory month. Place was nicer than New York’s Natural History Museum. Be on the lookout for that video. #HOONSQUAT