【明報專訊】Growing up in Hong Kong, I used to think that smoking always symbolised a sort of decline to me: a physical kind associated with lung cancer, strokes, heart disease and a general malaise; or a social or mental decline of someone who is experiencing a midlife crisis or immense stress, so much so that they have resorted to smoking; or someone who has let go of themselves, indulging in reckless, hedonistic pleasure; or maybe someone who has been influenced negatively by those around them. In short, I used to think that a person only smokes if something has gone wrong in their life. So I was shocked to find that smoking is much more common among young people in the UK than in Hong Kong.
It seems to me that although the amount of education and government policies disincentivising smoking in the UK is comparable to those in Hong Kong, over here smoking appears to be something socially acceptable, if not desirable. In other words, smoking is still "kind of cool" for a sizeable, though decreasing, number of people. For example, I know a handful of people in the UK who have smoked enough to suffer visibly from the effects of smoking, but the same is not true of my friends in Hong Kong, although arguably this is based solely on my own experience. Nonetheless, the majority of smokers I know are "social smokers" who are far from addicted and only smoke occasionally with a group of friends, whose aim is not to get a "high". For them, smoking is analogous to ordering a takeaway pizza, not for the sake of eating it, but for the sake of sharing it with their friends. Worryingly, vaping has also gained popularity over the last few years, touted as the harmless alternative to cigarettes. However, the reality is that there are undoubtedly risks associated with e-cigarettes, which have been linked to at least 39 deaths in the US alone.
Nonetheless, the least attractive aspect of smoking and vaping for me is the price — I just can't afford it!
Alice has been boarding in the UK for more than five years and is currently applying for British and American universities. A lover of languages, she studies French, Japanese, Latin, Ancient Greek, etc.