Monday, March 23, 2009

Light it up: Getting smoked out in Accra

Some of my best friends are smokers and I have no problem with an individual exercising their right to smoke but PLEASE; not all over me. Here is a nightmare scenario for me: I'm sitting outside at a cafe enjoying the lovely fresh air and having a coffee + croissant. Some strangers approach and even if there are 20 empty tables, they choose the one right by me. They settle down, whip out their cigarettes, light up and blow wafts of smoke all over me without a care in the world. That is exactly what happened to me yesterday when three men speaking rapid Italian parked themselves directly in front of me at the Accra Mall. I was livid. Maybe I'm annoyed with myself because I did not rant and spew vitriol all over them. Mmm...blogging is like a powerful outlet for passive aggressive people everywhere!

Smoking in Ghana is an interesting phenomenon.You hardly see people smoking in public but when you go out at night, swarms of smokers come out of hiding. Well, maybe these folks are mostly social smokers. There is something socially unacceptable about smoking in Ghana. Seeing a woman smoke is almost considered an abomination and there is an unflappable stereotype that a woman smoking by herself in a club/pub is a commercial sex worker! Warning to all you ladies who may find yourself flying solo out at night ciggie in hand.

I have always been fascinated with smoking. I remember visiting Geneva in my
mid-teens and being shocked that everyone seemed to be smoking! It was like being in a 1950s know the type of movie where a doctor offers you a cigarette in his office or where smoking is glamorized by Audrey Hepburn. Alas, it is now a well established fact that smoking is a major risk factor for lung cancer and a myriad of other cancers. Passive smoking is no better and many industrialized countries have welcomed public smoking bans in the past few years.

What I find interesting about Ghana is the lack of real legislature governing smoking in public in Ghana. Last year there was talk (there is always talk!) about a smoking ban coming into effect in November last year. What became of that? Will Ghanaians be able to enforce such a ban?


Nana Yaw Asiedu said...

Aby, I once flew off the handle in a pub in a hotel, which is my favourite place in town (or is it?) The target couple (of my vitriol) left in a huff, but the hotel staff told me I was wrong because it was a "Smoking" place, and I had just lost them clients!

Abena said...

Hehehehe Nana Yaw, I wish I had been there for the vitriol! More power to ya. You actually hit the hammer on the head; one issue appears to be that businesses do not want to inconvenience the customer especially if they are foreign. This appears to be out of fear of:
1. Losing foreign clients
2. not living up to the stereotype that Ghanaians are the friendliest people on this planet.

Nana Yaw Asiedu said...

Easy it is to mistake foolishness for friendliness!

posekyere said...

We are mostly unsure of what is best until somebody has tried it somewhere and it becomes a universal standard before we do the same.
Your comments on our unwillingness to offend others, especially foreign clients is a major issue.

Abena said...

Hehehe...Again Nana Yaw you made me laugh out loud! I do feel guilty though...

Abena said...

Posekyere, you are so right. Why can't we be the trailblazers though? As for Ghanaians not wanting to offend, I really appreciate this compared to other parts of Africa and the world but lately it has been annoying me out of my skull!

Anonymous said...

I had the shock of my life the only time I went to a certain restaurant in accra mall, you know, the fancy one (hint hint), and this group of 2 men and women decided to have a "smoking competition". Both men smoked, not one, but 2 friggin cigars in one sitting....back to back. Seriously, who does that? I swear the women smoked at least half a pack each of ciggarettes. I think they just wanted to show off. But to who, cos I certainly wasnt impressed. We couldnt switch tables because we were in the middle of dinner. And by the way, the food sucked. Overpriced, crappy tasting and the servings had to be a joke.

Abena said...

*LOL* Anonymous, thanks for delightful input. First of all, I feel compelled to apologize on behalf of those ignint people who embarrassed themselves in public like that! How sad and crass to show off by burning up your own lungs (and of course forcing everyone else to smoke with you!!). Alas, they probably feel they demonstrated how sophisticated, opulent and modern they were.
On another note, have never been to that certain restaurant but I do hear it is severely overpriced and over-hyped!

novisi said...

you paint the picture here so well.

the only high-profile call for public ban that i know of in Ghana in recent times is that from Prof. Akosa.

even in some countries that i know where they smoke even more than they drink water there are places designated for smokers at places like the restaurants, malls, airports etc!

and your painting of the 'social smokers' who only come out mostly during the nocturnal expeditions make me go funky!

i love the clubs and i love to dance and watch others dance... there's just so much art in motion... but i'm not moved to go more than once in a long while because i hate smoke!

sometimes i wish i could mass up a 'balloon-ful' of smelly-fart to 'detonate' in the face of whoever comes puffing nicotine into my nose!

i hope our parliamentarians who love smoking would dream up legislation to care for those of us who don't!

Abena said...

Thanks for the clarification and amusing comments Novisi! You are right that Prof. Akosa was the only one who advocated really addressing the issue instead of the empty bipartisan disdain for public smoking expressed in parliament a few years ago. The last time I remember being "up in the club" a definite push factor to leave was the cigarette smoke in an enclosed place. As for the smelly-fart balloon, absolutely hilarious!!!

Here, There, Elsewhere... and more said...

Great post and equally great comments..!
I could write a book; I have so much to say on the subject - I'll spare you all my rantings though; suffice to say, as a non-smoker, it bugs me bad that I have to inhale other people's smoke and risk lung cancer..:)

Abena said...

I totally agree Here, There, Elsewhere! I just wish there were better rules in Ghana to govern 2nd hand smoke....mmmmm in fact, we lack rules to govern quite a few things. Tackling public smoking would be a great start though!