27 July, 2021

Tryst With Marlboro Man

Smoking equals hypocrisy. By the state, a moralising West and us.

Illustration by Saahil
Tryst With Marlboro Man

As an unregenerate smoker, who has enjoyed the vast majority of all the cigarettes he has smoked since the first one, back in April 1981, made him sick to his spirit—as one who has no desire to reform, I’d like to add my small voice to the current brouhaha over how smokers may be discouraged.

Raising taxes is all very well; I cannot complain about having to pay more for what is not only not a necessity but activ­ely harmful to me. I remember Yashwant Sinha, when he was finance minister, saying during his Budget speech in Parliament, “And now, I have absolutely no compunction about raising the tax on cigarettes,” to loud table-thumping. Politicians, of course, have few compunctions about anything to do with other people’s money. But that’s when the hypocrisy of the whole system came home to me.

An Indian cigarette costs, to manufacture, about a tenth of what it sells for. ‘Ind­ian-made foreign liquor’ may cost about a fifth. That’s all right; high-end toothpastes, those loaded with common salt and...

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