Why Journalists Smoke Cigarette ,By Abdallah el-Kurebe

cigarette“Whoever does not smoke or drink will die in good health.” – Russian proverb

People, regardless of class, smoke cigarette against warnings in the media of its harmful effects. Journalists too, who run the same media that send those warning messages against smoking, smoke. Why do they  smoke?

As a social behaviour, smoking is influenced by the people around us. My interaction with some Journalists reveals that if everyone else is doing one thing, you start thinking it must be the correct or sociable thing to be doing.

Journalists are major stakeholders in enlightenment, awareness creation, advocacy and propaganda, especially against societal ills.

Although it may not lawfully be wrong for people to smoke, the fact that smoking is associated with certain health hazards, it becomes a social responsibility for Journalists to enlighten the public on the dangers of smoking.

The quick question is how confident a Journalist that smokes would write against cigarette use? In spite of their knowledge of the maladies that smoking causes and in view of their societal standing, just why do Journalists smoke?

My cigarette-smoking colleagues are my  motivation for writing this piece. One of them, before he died four months ago of cigarette-related health issue, was a chain-smoker.

When he went to Saudi Arabia some years back on pilgrimage, he came back a born-again. He had quit the habit during the short time of the Hajj exercise but resumed shortly after his return.

The acknowledged truth is that smoking is not an easy habit to do away with. But while a small percentage of journalists are capable of quitting, many eventually pick up the habit again.

At an occasion, he confided in me that he had some uncomfortable pains inside his ribs and in his chest. “I sometimes cough out reddish substance and vomit so often,” he had told me. I advised him not only to quit smoking but immediately see a Doctor.

He consulted a Doctor who told him to stop smoking. He obliged, of course he could not continue because the Doctor painted a “lifeless-living” picture on his person.

The man died and it was common knowledge that he died of cigarette smoking.

Other Journalists engaged in cigarette smoking know the consequences. However, the thinking of many that I spoke with is that they could quit smoking anytime they want. But in truth, the habit has become ingrained; a lifestyle and an addiction that causes physical discomfort if they stop.

Journalists write reports about the dangers of smoking but why do they still smoke without putting their health risks at consideration?

Many of the Journalists I spoke with are chronic smokers. They all appear physically slim and unhealthy.

“I know every risk associated with smoking cigarette. I read the warnings of the dangers in smoking; I know I could have lung cancer; I also know I could die but I cannot easily stop smoking; at least not in the nearest future,” Goronyo Garba told me.

Iliyasu Malami told  me that he could stop smoking when God deems it fit for him to. “The fact is that I cannot say what the benefits of smoking are but I still smoke. Sometimes, when I try to stop, I fail and I have given up trying.”

“Any time I see someone smoking, if I do not do same, I feel incomplete. I don’t know when but I know I will stop smoking one day,” Abdulnasir Umar who smokes one and a half packs of cigarette a day, said.

Umar Abdullahi is 62 year old Journalist who started smoking when he was six – 54 years today.

“When I was six years old, we were engaged by local traders to wrap cigarette for sale to the public. That was how I started smoking. I was rather influenced by friends who I also saw smoking,” Abdullahi said.

On why he smokes, “It makes me stable. I don’t enjoy any work if I don’t smoke. Even if one offends me while I am smoking, I don’t feel bad.”

He knows that cigarette smoking harms, “but I have never experienced any such harm,” and to guard against any harm, Abdullahi takes unorthodox concoction. “I eat banana, which makes me pass black excreta. I also take mixture of lime and alum.”

Mukhtar Boyi is a 50 years Journalist. He started smoking at 11 years by picking cigarette butts. He told me, “I smoke because I am addicted to it that if I do not, I feel I am lacking in something. To write stories effectively, I must puff cigar.”

Boyi smoked one and a half (30 sticks) to two packs (40 sticks) of cigarette a day. He now smokes approximately ten sticks a day. He knows about the dangers of smoking but although he sees the effect on others, he has never experienced any harmful effect. He will leave smoking one day.

Umar Ibrahim is a 57 year old Journalist who started smoking in his early twenties. Ibrahim was influenced by a close friend. He found smoking fashionable.

“I feel relaxed when I smoke because of addiction. If I want to get my brain stimulated to write, I smoke,” Ibrahim told me.

Although he is aware of the risk involved in smoking, he takes a packet of cigarette every day. He says he has not personally experienced it until recently when he had malaria and could not smoke for some days. “I think this is the time I will stop smoking. Although I have not smoked for these days I fell sick, I now have the urge.

This Journalist wouldn’t want his name mentioned. He is 37 year old and started smoking at 27. He was influenced by his friend who would smoke and give him a part.

“I smoke a pack of cigarette in a day. I feel satisfied and comfortable when I smoke. I feel stronger if I don’t smoke, anyway. I know about the risks and hope to stop smoking one day,” he told me.

An Editor who spoke to me and who  also smokes cigarette said the he would not stop Journalists that he supervises from smoking.

“I smoke and I know how cigarette stimulates me to work. I believe it does the same to other Journalists. If it will stimulate them to work hard for my paper, why should I discourage them?” he asked me.

Cigarette smoking therefore is a part of the “occupational myth” of the journalist. But should it be taken in newsrooms, especially where there could be others that do not smoke?

Sociologists argue that every profession needs what academics call an “occupational mythology” to sustain it and, “by which men make their work tolerable, or even make it glorious to themselves and others,” said sociologist Everett Hughes.

If a journalist smokes, he does it to excess because he smokes each day; each hour and each minute that he writes. If you deny the journalist his self-image as a rule-bending individualist, you could encounter a bland and gutless reporter.

Editors know when and how to encourage newsroom smoking, as opposed to squelching it. The belief is in appreciation of Bob Woodward’s aphorism that “All good work is done in defiance of management.”

The reasons for smoking are mostly psychological and therefore, eliminating those psychological reasons is one sure way of getting rid of smoking tobacco products – even among journalists.

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