IT'S ALLAH'S WISH
THAT MY FATHER DIED YOUNG
- BUT CIGARETTE WAS THE CAUSE.
The second entry of this speech is now published with its original title in English. It was delivered on 20th October, 1985 in either CIRDAP or AARRO international conference in Kuala Lumpur. A friend of mine requested that I put it in my blog after reading a collection of my English language speeches in international conferences worldwide published in a book entitled 'NOT A GARDEN OF WEEDS' as 'WORDS WITHOUT DEEDS IS A GARDEN FULL OF WEEDS'. My friend's son happens to have started smoking but does not speak Malay. I am informed that he likes reading the English language titles on my blog entries. I am reproducing this piece for Robin and all other readers who are interested in the subject.
INTRODUCTION TO THE FIRST ENTRY WITH A MALAY TITLE
The next paragraph is the introduction to my first entry on 20th January, 2010 entitled 'KEMPEN BERHENTI MEROKOK.
Pada hari ini saya lihat di dalam media massa satu usaha lama yang diteruskan dengan tujuan supaya masyarakat Malaysia berhenti merokok. Di sini saya perturunkan semula ucapan saya, dalam bahasa Inggeris, di waktu merasmikan seminar antarabangsa bertajuk 'Action on Smoking and Health' yang diadakan di Kuala Lumpur pada 20 Oktober, 1985. Ucapan ini relevan dengan usaha penubuhan Klinik Berhenti Merokok yang diwujudkan pada hari ini. Tajuk ucapan ini ialah:
THE NICOTINE WAR
1. I was 12 years old when my father died on March 18, 1956, at a young age of 37. To this day I am still unaware as to the real cause of his death since I was at a boarding school when he became sick. I sill have a driving license photograph of him with swollen lips. Some people said he died of tuberculosis. Whatever it might have been it is obvious that had hed been ill for sometime.
2. As a lorry driver, transporting fish from the Alor Setar Jetty ( which have now ceased to exist ) to the central market in Ipoh, about 257 kilometers down the Malay Peninsula, he had his share of bitter hardship that manifested itself on our family.
3. Having graduated from being a 'pirate' taxi driver, he had failed to remit my hostel fees and pocket money, which prompted my returning home just in time to see him die.
4. We all love and are very proud of him to this day. ( That is till 1985 when 'we' includes my younger brother Abdullah Maamuoum bin Junid and his younger sister Shamsiah binti Junid were still alive ). As far as the family is concerned, there was nothing wrong with him except that he worked too hard and was a heavy smsoker. I can still remember his stained fingers, the result of years of nicotine abuse.
5. In 1973 my father-in-law died of cancer. He was 50. He was well treated in the Kuala Lumpur General Hospital until one fine morning when he decided that it was all over and that he should be back in Jakarta to spend his last days beside his family. The doctor agreed.
6. I booked the only available flight to Jakarta in the evening. He was carried on a stretcher from the MAS plane at Halim Perdanakusuma Airport at Jakarta. He died at 5 o'clock - just before sunrise. He did not see the light of another Jakarta day. He, too, was a heavy smoker.
7. However, it is not for these two reasons that I launched a campaign or a personal crusade against providing MARA loans to petty traders who smoke. The reason was not medical but economic.
8. Should a man smoke even one packet of cigarettes in a day, it would cost him RM2, or RM60 per month or RM720 per year. If the trader's loan is for RM1,000-00 or RM2,000-00, he should not get a loan but instead stop smoking.
9. Then, I was only interested in instilling some simple economic sense among the Malay traders. This is not to say that I am pro smoking although I had no objection to the petty traders selling cigarettes while they themselves stop the habit. As I have said, my reason was solely economic.
10. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad ( now Tun ) is the first Prime Minister of Malaysia who is not a lawyer. All the Prime Ministers who preceded him were lawyers. He is also the first not educated in Britain as well as the first premier alien to golfing.
11. He is the first commoner to become Prime Minister and above all, he is the first Prime Minister who does not smoke. He is a doctor. He is, however, the last Prime Minister to enter politics before independence. As we in Malaysia practice leadership by example, I take pride in not smoking as our Prime Minister does not.
12. Have I ever smoked? The answer is yer. When I was a student in Germany in 1969, I remember one day while enjoying a cup of 'Kaffee Ohne Zucker' or coffee sans sugar ( labelled Java Coffee although from Brazil ), I spotted a yellow packet of cigarettes bearing my name Senoussi ( spelled differently ).
13. I have kept that packet of cigarettes for over 16 years. I have smoked and taken pride in it as Senoussi cigarettes were then graded as containing the highest nicotine content in Europe. It was really an achievement in my name. When I left Germany for Britain, my stocks of Senoussi cigarettes were all consumed.
14. With lower allowances I chose to smoke free cigarettes from friends while providing in return, service by lighting their cigarettes with my lighter. This did not last. As a school boy I had tried to smoke more to protest against the shool rules. This too did not last.
15. When I went to Jakarta for my engagement, I brought back two cartons of the pungent Indonesian clove cigarettes called 'kretek'. I had thought by smoking kretek I was being loyal to my future wife. I stopped smoking kretek when we got married as she was against smoking it.
16. I mentione all these to indicate further how easy it is to start a smoking habit. It is even easier to stop as some comedians have said that they have done it many times.
17. Looking back I realize that this habit did not hold fast with me due to economic reasons, for I could have sacrificed something else in favour of cigarettes, nor because of health reasons. I stopped smoking because I had to make a choice. In the case of kretek, I had to choose between smoking and incurring the wrath of the woman I love. I chose not to smoke.
18. In cases other than kretek, I had always experienced coughing when I smoke too much. As a politician it is no good to be identified as a coughing minister or a coughing speaker. I had to choose between not smoking and not talking. I chose not to smoke.
Medical Reasons Against Smoking
19. Over time I have observed that all arguments against smoking are medical. As a layman I have read:
Tobacco smoke contains nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide. It has been proven that nicotine raises the level of fatty acids in the blood, clogging and eventually leading to coronary diseases.
20. As a layman I have also read:
Carbon monoxide interferes with the normal functioning of hemoglobin which takes oxygen from the lunng to the rest of the body.
21. I read further:
Besides carbon particles, there are other irritants in tobacco smoke, such as phenols, aldehydes and cyanide, and these substances increase the danger of lung cancer.Economic Reasons for Smoking
22. These and others are medical arguments. All arguments in defense of smoking are economic, such as:
23. The argument goes further:44,000 farmers are involved in the growing of tobacco in the states of Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah and Perlis. If each farmer supports an average of five in a family, all the 220,000 people would be dependent on tobacco and, therefore, also on smoking!
The total income of the farmers from the sale of tobacco is approximately RM120 million.
24. Another example is:
25. These are economic arguments in favour of tobacco, therefore, in favour of smoking.The tobacco industry, from growing to cigarette manufacturing, involve RM1.4 billion a year and the total tax is approximately RM600 million annually.
26. Generally, members of the medical profession are less concerned with the economic arguments. They react vehemently to any indication by the tobacco industry that smoking does not affect health. The tobacco industry, on the other hand, is less concerned with the medical argument against smoking, so long as these arguments are not effective.
27. When there is indication that smoking is bad for the health, the cigarette companies would instead sponsor boxing or other sport programs to be identified with healthy living through sports and not to be associated with all the diseases.
Economic Argument Against Smoking
28. The tobacco industry will be ruffled with economic arguments against smoking. They are concerned when we say:
4.72 million cigarettes are smoked every day at a cost of RM472,000. This would mean that Malaysians consume 141 million cigarettess per month at a cost of RM14.16 million.
29. In other words, if we stop smoking for two years, we would be able to build one Daya Bumi and if we stop smoking for five years, we can pay for the cost of one Penang Bridge. These are 1984 statistics provided to me by the former Deputy Minister of Primary Industries, Datuk Megat Junid Megat Ayub ( Deputy of Minister at the time of delivery of the speech ). He is a smoker and told me not to mention his name!
30. I have experienced isolation when on my own I have assaulted smoking in 1982. For six months I was on constant offensive. International newspapers launched a tirade and ridiculed my arguments that they hardly understood.
Attack and Consolation
31. One Chicago radio station screamed hilariously: 'Just fancy that ..... a Malaysian Minister is not providing loans to smokers!'. My only consolation was when I received a letter from the All India Ramgharhia Central Federation - copy of which was sent to the late Mrs. Indira Ghandi. The letter reads:
'It is a great pleasure that your government has banned smoking in all government offices.Today we have read in the Punjabi 'Ajit' Daily paper that you have passed not to sanction any loans ( interest free ) for small technicians to start small industries, who are in the habit of smoking. For the reason that people who are spending their money on this bad habit of smoking needs no loans. You have further stated that before sanctioning a loan of 873 dollars, the applicants will have to undergo a medical test to certify that they are not smokers.I, on behalf of our Federation, congratulate you on this action that is beneficial for the public health.
32. In our effort to act on smoking we should consolidate and integrate. Different professionals have different approaches, but so long as we are moving in the same direction, we should cooperate. We should also try to provide alternatives to smoking.
33. Any government with much of the population dependent on the tobacco industry will not be in a hurry to abruptly stop smoking. Such governments will probably he happy with the slow progress in the campaign against smoking.
34. Should any government be able to check the smoking habit within the country, then it should be selfish enough to go for total export of the products of the tobacco industry with the hope that other nations will encourage doing what we would like our population to stop doing, i.e. stop smoking.
35. During a recession beset with unemployment problems, any move against smoking by a deficit nation will deteriorate the economic situation. A nation moving against smoking, should prepare alternative employment to the farmers in the rural areas. Alternatively, we should look for solutions to all our problems. It is unfortunate that:
Men are not concerned with adultery once there is a cure for syphilis.Men will not act against smoking if cancer is curable.Men will even forgive homosexuality once there is a cure for AIDS.
36. While we look for alternative employment for farmers, we should continue to act against smoking. While we search for cure to all diseases it is high time for us to return to the religious teachings:
Adultery, smoking and homosexuality can be identified with modern diseases for sure.
37. I am sure the tobacco industry will not mind if they have the time to phase out their workers and diversify their investment. Once the campaign against smoking becomes effective, once the people are aware of the dangers of smoking, the industry, despite all efforts to resist the effects, will have to adjust.
38. Let us take note that this campaign takes time. All humans are great risk takers, we cannot expect miraculous results. We need great public relations. For one, all doctors must stop smoking. If we are prepared to struggle over time, we shall succeed. Failing this, my father and father-in-law would have died in vain.
Kempen anti-merokok telah dimulakan lagi pada tahun 2001 dengan slogan 'TAK NAK'.
Sejak 2001 kira-kira 270 klinik sudah didirikan di seluruh negara.
Kira-kira 30,000 penghisap rokok baru bertambah setiap tahun.
Jualan rokok dianggarkan RM15 juta sehari.
THE ABOVE SPEECH, IN ENGLISH, WAS DELIVERED FOR THE FIRST TIME ON 20th OCTOBER, 1985
FIRST PUBLISHED IN THIS BLOG SERIES ON 20th JANUARY, 2010 - With a Malay title 'KEMPEN BERHENTI MEROKOK
SECOND ENTRY INTO THIS BLOG ON 2nd SEPTEMBER, 2016 - With an English title.