【英语中国】中国烟民太固执 Pollution is all too much for smokers

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所属分类:双语中国

2014-5-19 07:08

小艾摘要: One of the joys of authoritarian government is having the power to order hoi polloi to do what’s good for them – or else. So why is China still smoking?The west has spent most of my lifetime trying ...
Pollution is all too much for smokers
One of the joys of authoritarian government is having the power to order hoi polloi to do what’s good for them – or else. So why is China still smoking?

The west has spent most of my lifetime trying to tackle this problem: I was born around the time of the invention of second-hand smoke, but I was middle-aged by the time anyone took it seriously. Beijing doesn’t have that kind of time: more than 1m people a year are already dying from smoking, and that’s just the beginning. Many of those who started puffing when China began to get rich 30-odd years ago are only now starting to fall ill. And with cigarettes still costing as little as 50p a pack, even the most impecunious mainlander can afford enough smokes to kill them.

But Beijing knows it can’t pay the medical bills of the 300m who already smoke, let alone those coming up through the ranks. So it is finally trying to force more people to stop smoking – starting with government officials. They are no longer allowed to smoke in government offices, schools, hospitals or on public transport; and they aren’t allowed to use public money to give each other cigarettes as gifts (one of the most popular ways for civil servants to bribe each other). Every doctor in China has been ordered to ask every patient whether they smoke – and help with smoking cessation (a task made more difficult by the fact that 40-50 per cent of male doctors in China are themselves smokers).

As good central planners should, they last week decreed that provincial and national television channels would air a month’s worth of antismoking advertisements. ?If ever there was a problem that cried out for a totalitarian solution, this is it, right? Let them stop smoking – because we said so.

But human beings are oddly perverse creatures, and when it comes to consuming addictive substances they are perverse in spades. A startling number of Chinese claim they don’t even know how dangerous smoking is: most know it can cause lung cancer, but according to the World Health Organisation, three-quarters of Chinese don’t know that smoking can cause strokes, nearly half don’t know it causes heart disease, and two-thirds are unaware that sexual pleasure can also be a casualty.

Even some who know the risks, don’t take them seriously. “Chairman Mao [Zedong] smoked and Chairman Deng [Xiaoping] smoked and drank, and Deng lived into his 90s,” says Tommy Yu, who is spending his morning break catching a quick smoke outside the HSBC tower in Shanghai’s financial district. “I’ll quit when I’m 50,” he says, pointing out that he works long hours under intense stress and smoking helps him cope.

Lv Hanjing, director of the respiratory medicine department at Shanghai Tongji Hospital, thinks China these days is a very anxious place, and that is one reason why it’s hard to get people to stop smoking. Her hospital started a smoking cessation clinic in 2008, but nowadays very few people attend. A colleague who runs the clinic puts it simply: “Even though some people know very well that smoking one cigarette will shorten their life by 7 minutes, they are not willing to sacrifice the pleasure of smoking for the extra seven minutes.”

Indeed, smoking in China is still seen as one of the finer things in life: during last month’s tomb-sweeping festival, when mainlanders visit the graves of their ancestors, traditional gifts for the departed included not only paper replicas of Porsches or iPads but also paper cigarettes. At Chinese weddings, guests often toast the newlyweds by smoking a cigarette in celebration, as well as drinking a toast.

There are economic barriers to complicate the social, psychological and physical ones: profits from the state tobacco monopoly contribute more than 6 per cent to China’s annual budget every year – and Premier Li Keqiang’s brother is a senior official of the company.

Even so things are changing: smoke in public places has declined dramatically since I moved to Shanghai in 2008 – just about in line with the rise in air pollution. Gao Ming, who sells cigarettes in a migrant workers’ village on the edge of Shanghai, says very few people under the age of 30 buy his cigarettes – partly because they are so worried about the air pollution. Maybe tackling smoking won’t be that hard after all.

But air pollution? Now there’s a problem that won’t take orders, even from the Communist party.

威权政府的一个优点在于有权命令老百姓做那些对他们有利的事——否则后果自负。那么中国人为何还在吸烟?

在我有生以来的大部分时间里,西方一直试图应对这个问题:大约在我出生时,二手烟一词出现了,但当所有人都严肃对待二手烟问题时我已届中年。中国则没有这个时间:目前每年有超过100万人死于吸烟,而这只是开始。30多年前中国开始变得富有之时,许多人开始抽上了烟,其中的很多人现在开始患病。一盒香烟的价格最低才相当于0.5英镑,即便内地最穷的人也买得起数量多得足以要人命的香烟。

然而,中国政府明白,中国支付不起3亿烟民(更别提那些出身贫寒的人)的医疗账单。因此,中国终于试图迫使更多人戒烟,从政府官员开始。他们不得在政府办公场所、学校、医院和公共交通工具上吸烟;他们不得用公款互赠香烟作为礼物(这是公务员互相贿赂的最受欢迎的方式之一)。根据规定,中国所有的医生都必须询问患者是否吸烟,并帮助他们戒烟(鉴于中国男性医生中有40%至50%吸烟,这项任务极为艰巨)。

就像优秀的中央规划者应该做的那样,他们近期颁布命令,省级和全国性电视台将播放一个月的戒烟公益广告。如果说有一个问题亟需极权主义的解决方案的话,戒烟就是这样一个问题,对吗?让他们戒烟,因为我们说了。

然而,人类是固执得出奇的动物,当涉及到消耗可上瘾物质时,他们就变得非常执迷不悟了。数量多得惊人的中国人声称,他们甚至不知道吸烟的危害有多大:多数人知道吸烟可能导致肺癌,但世界卫生组织(World Health Organisation)称,四分之三的中国人不知道吸烟可能会导致中风,近一半的中国人不知道吸烟会导致心脏病,三分之二的中国人不知道,性快感也可能因为吸烟而减退。

就连一些了解吸烟风险的人也没有严肃对待这个问题。“毛(泽东)主席吸烟,邓(小平)主席既吸烟,又喝酒,而邓小平活了90多岁,”利用上午休息时间在上海金融中心汇丰银行(HSBC)大楼外抓紧时间吸烟的Tommy Yu表示,“到50岁时我就戒烟。”他说,他上班时间长,工作压力大,吸烟会帮助他缓解紧张。

上海同济医院呼吸内科主任医师吕寒静认为,现在中国是一个充满焦虑的地方,这也是很难让人们戒烟的一个原因。2008年,她所在的医院开设了戒烟门诊,但现在很少有人看这一门诊。负责该门诊的一位同事说的很简单:“尽管一些人非常清楚每吸一根烟寿命就会缩短7分钟,但他们不愿为了这7分钟的寿命放弃吸烟的乐趣。”

实际上,在中国,吸烟仍被视为生活中美好的事情之一:今年清明节期间,当中国内地人祭扫先人墓地时,为故去之人准备的祭品不仅包括纸糊的保时捷(Porsche)汽车和iPad,还有纸质的香烟。在中国的婚礼上,宾客们为新人送上祝福的方式通常是吸一支烟、喝一杯酒。

除了社会、心理和身体的因素,阻碍戒烟的还有经济因素:国家烟草专卖局的利润占中国每年年度预算的6%以上,国务院总理李克强的弟弟李克明就担任国家烟草专卖局副局长。

尽管如此,情况还是有些变化:自从2008年我搬到上海以来,公共场所吸烟的现象已大大减少,这和空气污染加重的趋势是一致的。在上海郊区一个外来务工人员聚居的村子里售卖香烟的高明(音译)表示,很少有年龄不到30岁的人买他的烟,部分原因是他们非常担忧空气污染。看来,解决吸烟问题或许不会那么难。

但空气污染呢?这个问题可不是下命令就能解决的,即便是共产党下达的命令也是如此。

译者/梁艳裳

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