News - October 10, 2013

Smoking unashamed

Dutch women smoke openly; a Ghanaian woman caught smoking might be sent to the pastor for deliverance from evil

One thing that struck me when I first arrived in the Netherlands was the way people smoke openly without any feeling of discomfort or shame. I was even more surprised to find that even women do so without hesitation. This is certainly not the case in my country, Ghana. That is not to say that people in my country do not smoke. Of course they do, but they try to hide it as much as possible because smoking is perceived as irresponsible behaviour and it could even cost you your relationship or job.

Women who are caught smoking openly by either a close relative or friend could find their case landing on a pastor’s desk for ‘deliverance from evil’. Or they might be called to appear before an elder for psychological assessment. In short, to get caught smoking by your loved ones could cause great sadness or even outrage, distrust and lack of confidence.

Little wonder then that even on the political scene, politicians use each other’s past records or current reputations as smokers to throw accusations and counteraccusations at each other about how irresponsible they are, and unfit to hold political office. So my Dutch friends, when next you visit Ghana bear in mind that smoking is not a personal decision there but a community decision. In contrast, the Netherlands seems to be the land of freedom where everybody minds their own business.

Zagenia Felicity, Ghanaian MSc student of International Development Studies of Wageningen University.