What a relief to be in smoke free environments. It’s often said that former smokers can become the biggest anti-smokers. Some 15 years ago while gracing a stage in a dingy club in Larnaca I decided to quit the dreaded weed. I am unsure what happened to this day but right in the middle of a song my voice just said ‘aaatsit!’ as I struggled to get the words out, like a croaking frog. Most punters there probably thought it was the PA and fortunately just as it happened the bouzouki solo on the track, played so masterfully by Sugar (RiP) saved the day. From that moment on I knew the end of the road had come for the dreaded weed and me.

When I first went to California in 2004 on tour with my good poet friend Zeki Ali, as Poets4Peace what struck me most was the no-smoking policy in venues, bars and restaurants. The desperate smokers at the dinning tables would always venture to the sidewalk outside and my lungs felt liberated. I wondered if such a law would ever be passed in Cyprus? A few years later, when I was doing a gig in Athens with my DJ spar Standout Selector from California, I think it must have been November 2008, I was so pleased clubs had no smoking policies. Standout was used to visiting the sidewalk. Again I wondered, would this ever happen in Cyprus?

I can recall three occasions when I had contracted severe bronchitis in Cyprus, and each time I had played in a club or bar to the wee hours, and the owners, possibly wanting to cut down on electricity bills, did not turn on their smoke extractors. Each gig was enjoyable but getting over the bronchitis was not. After that, I tended to cut down on those kinds of places, preferring instead to do outdoor events, or spend half the night on the sidewalk. There was nothing worse than doing a gig and coming home at 4 in the morning stinking like a huge packed ashtray full of cigarette butts. How can any one sleep with that stench. Hit the shower, and then go to bed.

So in the end the law did come to Cyprus and as you can gather I am a much happier DJ and person. At the same time I find it hilarious that some people, presumably smokers who cannot give up the filthy unhealthy habit, are bleating the law itself is ‘racist’. What a hilarious statement to make – ‘banning smoking in closed tiny spaces is a form of racism.’

First of all the whole concept that smokers are a homogenous ‘race’ or people regarding this new law is pretty lame, as many smokers, agree with the law. Second, the whole concept of ‘race’ is and will always remain problematic. A pioneer in this field was a rather obnoxious writer called Gobineau, an early advocate of the mythical Aryan master race (1853-55). Hitler borrowed and adapted much of his dreaded Nazi ideology from Gobineau. Just knowing the concept of ‘race’ stems from such thoughts on so-called purity and absolutism has always led me to believe it is a highly contentious and always politically loaded term, created through colonialist mindsets.

How then can any one in a smoke free 2010 claim they represent a ‘race’ of smokers, when the whole concept itself is founded on racism. How can any one in their right logical mind, knowing all the effects of nicotine sticks, advocate repealing a law that will effectively save lives? What’s worse is many of the people signing these petitions online also claim to be anti-fascists and anti-racists. It would be less objectionable if they simply said lets revert back to the stone ages and let people smoke anywhere, no matter the risks. Lets bring back advertising for fags on TV, Radio, and The press. Why not target Marlboros at women again. The first filtered cigarettes were aimed at women. The company even used babies to advertise their product. Inevitably from the 1930’s onwards there was a huge increase in lung cancer amongst women in the USA as a result of smoking. Fortunately after the Second World War, much of these gender biased marketing techniques were banned.

So I remain resolutely anti-smoking. I even think prices should be increased to at least 10 Euros a packet, if not more. Who feels it knows it…every time…and the experience of smoking and giving up is more liberating than ten million petitions on Facebook to serve the needs of a multinational industry that kills hundreds of thousands of people each year.

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