Smoking in the Park

I recently stumbled across this short video of things you see people doing in a park in Beijing. Parks in Beijing (and any other cities in China) are where retirees go to hang out. They sing, dance, play cards, and, apparently smoke. A lot!

Seeing all the smoking brought to mind a conversation I had with a tour bus driver in Beijing last year as we were standing around waiting for the group I was leading to board the bus. I had told him that I lived in Beijing for 15 years and he asked me to comment on all the changes I’d seen. Since it was a particularly smoggy day, I mentioned the pollution.

That set him off on a rant about how bad the pollution was and how the government wasn’t doing anything about it and how it was making people sick….all the while puffing away on a cigarette!

“Wait a minute,” I said to him…”you’re standing there fussing about air pollution while smoking a cigarette??”

He chuckled sheepishly.

I have long thought that in a country where upwards of 70% of the male population smokes, the uproar over the smog seems a bit misplaced!

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Taking in the Mountain Air


This is definitely my favorite story out of China this week — residents of Zhengzhou (my original China ‘home town’) lined up to take shots of O2 from bags filled with mountain air (from the Wall Street Journal):

“Proving that China’s fight against pollution has moved decisively into the realm of parody, bags containing mountain air were shipped into one particularly smog-addled city over the weekend.

Residents from the elderly to young children lined up for a chance at the bags. Reuters

No, it wasn’t a scene from Spaceballs. According to the organizer, a Henan-based travel company, 20 bright blue bags of air were shipped to Zhengzhou, capital of central China’s Henan province, as a special treat for residents. The air originated from Laojun Mountain, some 120 miles away from the city, and was brought as part of a promotional gimmick to show oxygen-deprived city residents what they’re missing.”

To be honest it’s hard for me to take all this newfound concern about pollution too seriously, given the fact that 70% of Chinese males smoke!

In fact, while I was in Beijing last month, I was chatting with our bus driver as we waited for the students to board. The driver was surprised to learn that I had been in China for so many  years, and commented on the changes I must have seen in the city. Inevitably the topic of pollution came up.

Cigarette in hand, he launched into a rant about the terrible smog and how it was killing the quality of life in the city and that the government really needed to work harder to solve the problem.

“But you’re smoking,” I said. “How can you complain about the smog while puffing away on a cigarette??”

He just threw his head back and laughed.


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Photo source: Wall Street Journal