For many, life is about the journey. Not only the journey to discover the meaning of one’s own existence, but the journey of self-discovery, as a whole. Some feel they can do this within, and where they currently reside. Others feel as though the inward journey to self-discovery lies within the physical journey of life itself. The traveler.
Whether it is backpacking through Europe, hitchhiking in Burma, hiking through the Outback, or sightseeing in Taiwan – traveling abroad definitely exposes one to new cultures, new traditions, and new expectations in regards to personal conduct and behavior. Some of these behaviors or traditions may include smoking. Smoking is rampant in many nations. Some countries lack the educational awareness, or the infrastructure to create educational awareness, for those who smoke.
According to the CDC, the Global adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) Atlas, using the Global tobacco Surveillance System (GTSS), there are approximately 1.3 billion smokers in the world. There are about 6 million deaths each year from smoking. Smoking has also surpassed epidemic status and has assumed the rank of pandemic.
The top five countries with the highest percentage of smokers per capita, are Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria, Russia, and Moldova. The United States comes in around 51. Currently, approximately 17-18% of the population of the United States smokes tobacco.
Though countries such as Malaysia, Turkey, and Viet Nam have the highest percentages for anti-cigarette advertising on television, Turkey is ranked 35, Malaysia is ranked 89, and Viet Nam is ranked 54. Due to their successful anti-smoking campaigns, both Viet Nam and Malaysia see fewer smokers per capita than the United States.
Culture and Tradition
Throughout the world, there are a great number of smokers. People of different regions smoke for a great number of different reasons. Some may smoke tobacco as a part of rituals, some may smoke tobacco as a part of tradition, and some may smoke tobacco as a part of their heritage. There numerous reasons why people smoke, however, the end results are always the same: chronic illness, disease, cancer, and/or death.
Travelers should be aware of the dangers of tobacco. Regardless of where they are, or who they meet, smoking kills. It does not matter if the smoking is a part of a ritual, tradition, or celebration – tobacco causes heart disease, stroke, cancer, and death – among many other diseases and illnesses. Some backpackers have shared stories of meeting people in other countries, and joining them in their cultural traditions. These memories will last a lifetime, however, when tobacco is involved there is risk for addiction. This is where the story may not have a happy ending. Smoking is just as addictive as heroin or cocaine.
We are asking that every traveler come together to support education and awareness among the travelling community. Meeting new people and experiencing new cultures is what dreams are made of for some, it is the only way to live for others. However, smoking among many cultures is rampant in daily life, as well as during celebrations or rituals, and should not be participated in. Smoking is one of the most addictive substances on the planet. Through education and support we can help our fellow travelers experience life-changing moments on the road and abroad, and still make it home safely without having picked up life-threatening habits. Help others enjoy the journey in safety, and in health.