When I was a kid it seemed like everyone smoked! My dad rolled his own smokes every morning on a little hand cranked machine. In those days it didn’t matter where you were at you could smoke at home, in the office, in public places and the worst – in the car! We kids hated it when Dad would light up in the car! We didn’t dare show it but we would be gagging in the back seat every time. The only fun part about it was playing with the push in cigarette lighter; if dad wasn’t looking of course.  

It didn’t take long to learn in the tribe that the people smoked like chimneys. Seriously, both men and women smoked all the time. When they woke in the morning, they would smoke. When they walked along a trail in the jungle, they would smoke. When they went to sleep at night, they would smoke. Tobacco was readily available because it was grown right alongside their houses. When a plant’s leaves were big enough, they were picked, dried and then then rolled in a dry banana leave for smoking. I took time to observe their smoking habits, but then I began to investigate the purpose and motivation for smoking. After all, it is very unhealthy for you, so maybe I could help them understand that. 

In my quest to understand the motivation for such an unhealthy habit, I discovered three reasons for smoking: The first reason is that it’s actually healthy in the people’s minds because the smoke provides a smoke screen around them that can protect them from spirits that make them sick! Whoa! So no wonder they smoke like chimneys! If you smoke all the time, you will stay healthy. Observance matched with motivation, check. 

Secondly, smoking gives you good breath. What? There was no way this could be explained to me. I know what a smokers breath is like and it ain’t what I like to be near. But I had to understand this reasoning from their perspective. The people said that if you don’t smoke, your tooth decay will be too over powering for other people. It’s true! Smoker’s breath smells way better than rotten teeth breath! In the tribe there is no toothpaste, floss or Listerine. The people would “clean” their teeth with river sand or nothing at all. Tobacco breath is definitely more tolerable than bad breath. 

Thirdly, sharing tobacco is one of the most polite gestures you can show a visitor to your house. When the people would visit from house to house or hamlet to hamlet, they would exchange bundles or pieces of tobacco as a kind gesture to show there were no concerns or heavies between them and their visitor.  

So the next time you light up, try these three motivations to justify your habit… just kidding! Smoking is still not healthy for you, but now you can understand what motivates it in another culture. 

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