Three Sundays ago, my husband drove to the nearby filling station with the aim of getting a vulcanizer to fix the car's tyres. He succeeded in getting one who I'm sure for want of the gbemu* that comes from being one of the scarcely available service providers did not stay back at home to relish 'the Lord's Sabbath'.
Well, the vulcanizer fixed his tools in the usual places, placing the jack in the rightful position and with the help of the four wheel spanner and his rotational hand movement; the car was lifted off the floor giving way for the tyre to be freely unscrewed from its metallic dominator. As the vulcanizer held the tyre in his hand and my husband awaited the ritual application of water and spittle, a colleague walked up to the vulcanizer and engaged him in a conversation. As if the rude disruption of work process was not enough, the guy on taking a quick glance behind him nervously dipped his hand into his pocket, took out a stick of cigarette from a near empty pack, expertly lit it and calmly released about 60 carcinogenic chemicals directly into the face of the vulcanizer and further directly into the hitherto uncongested air.
Curiously, my husband struck a dialogue with him and the below interaction ensued -
My Husband: O boy, why you dey smoke?
Smoking Vulcanizer: E don tey wey I don dey do am o
My Husband: How long you don dey smoke?
Smoking Vulcanizer: Hmmm, na since Primary 4
My Husband: Ha! Na who give you the money
Smoking Vulcanizer: Na me use my money take buy am for myself
My Husband: How many sticks you dey smoke for one day?
Smoking Vulcanizer: Me, na one pack per day (A quick reference to last week's post will let you know that this invariably means twenty (20) sticks of cigarettes a day)
My Husband: Why you dey smoke?
Smoking Vulcanizer: prolonged silence
My Husband: Who you see around you wey dey smoke & make you wan try am too?
Smoking Vulcanizer: prolonged silence and then no further answers
The language barrier between the smoking vulcanizer and my husband limited their ability to converse smoothly but he graciously pointed out his partner-in-smoking, a nearby car wash operator who goes through 2-3packets of cigarette a day (Simplyinterpret as 40-60 sticks of cigarettes a day).
This short conversation set off several thought threads in my husband's mind and he returned home a disturbed father. He wondered aloud how old the smoking mechanic could have been when he got drowned in the lethal habit of smoking. Likely between 9 and 10 years old. He also expressed astonishment at why at that age, the seller did not refuse selling cigarettes to a minor.
His astonishment did not last long as he remembered how in his childhood days some fathers, uncles and elder brothers would send children to nearby shops to buy cigarettes and the kids would have to cleverly hide the product in order to prevent their mothers and sisters from sighting it.
In a country where anyone below 18 years old is considered underage by law and not allowed to cast votes, should they not also be protected from the clear, scientifically proven dangers associated with smoking tobacco products? Should we not use the laws of the land to restrict tobacco availability so these young ones will be able to productively contribute to the progress of their fatherland and not be snatched away by myriads of health complications that develop as a result of smoking?
Lets make the choice today to bequeath a smoke-free Nigeria to our Generation Z.
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Gbemu* - Financial reward