Written by Sirjan Ahluwalia
I am an educated, well informed adult women and I like to smoke. Well, just this one sentence would make a lot of you to assume a lot of things about me in your head. I will be thought of as characterless by a lot of you for saying that. While smoking is harmful for one’s health, it harms you much more if you are a woman.
I currently live in Patiala and I often smoke with my friends - both guys and girls. While it is completely acceptable for a guy to smoke, but I am always stared at for doing the same. Be it rickshawalas, aunties on scooters or a rich guy in his car, people stare like there’s no tomorrow. People stop walking and driving and start staring instead. Now we girls hide behind walls and trees at the time of smoking at a smoking kiosk.
Once I was standing on road side - smoking and a guy moving in his car, stopped on the way and just stared at me for 10 minutes and that wasn’t the first time, someone did that to me. My guy friend can actually walk on the road while smoking, whereas it is not something I can even think of doing.
One day, the aunty who sells cigarettes asked us to not to smoke around her kiosk, for the police had asked her to “atleast not sell the cigarettes to girls”. That was the safest place for us to smoke in the entire city of Patiala and now smoking has become a struggle just because I am a woman.
I do understand that smoking is unhealthy and injurious, but it also harms men as much as it harms women. The legal age to smoke in our country is 18 and legally, I am allowed to smoke. Yet, it is a sad truth that smoking harms my character and ‘izzat’ much more than it harms my health in this country, and this needs to change.