By Skeptik Sininkian
The other day I finally had time to go over my stack of news I ritualistically print out every week from various websites in order to stay informed and up to date on what’s new in the world. As I passed over the story of how Michael Jackson moon walked on the roof of an SUV surrounded by members of the rhythm Nation of Islam–ignored the Scott Peterson and Mark Geragos Modesto Media Carnival–and threw away the stories about Kobe Bryant’s sexual misconduct–I almost sprayed my morning coffee all over my keyboard and desk after reading "Frustrated Chimp Takes Up Smoking–A chimpanzee has taken up smoking and spitting–according to China’s Xinhua news agency." Folks–I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. I’ll spare you the details of the story except to say that the "poor" chimp was driven to smoking out of sexual frustration.
Now some of you may wonder where I’m going with this–but let me assure you–I have a point. Actually–I have a few but this is a family publication and my views on our community and sexual frustrations will not fit in the space allowed for my column. But for starters–let me say that I can understand a caged animal–thousands of miles away from his/her native habitat–constantly surrounded by prying eyes and without privacy or a soul mate–resorting to smoking. After all–apes may share DNA with us but they’re still animals and unable to reason. But I doubt that the youth in our community have it as bad as or worse than this poor chain smoking chimp. Yet every day–when I walk down Brand Boulevard in Glendale or walk out of a coffee shop–I see throngs of young Armenia’s polluting their lungs with cancer sticks. And they’re not even caged up! Even worse–most aren’t even old enough to smoke. These kids look old but are no older than 15 at the most! Most of these twelve year olds sport mustaches thicker than anything I ever grew in college during my "Sgt. Pepper" phase. I’m willing to bet $10 that most of these kids can’t buy cigarettes legally. They’re either lifting it from their parents–who continue to smoke in front of their children and thus encourage them–or are buying them from vendors who are breaking the law. Either way–smoking has become an epidemic amongst our community and it seems as though no one really cares. For a community that is so vain in the clothes they wear–the cars they drive–the restauran’s they eat at–it amazes me that they are too stupid to realize that smoking makes them look like a sweaty third world car mechanic.
California has taken some bold and admirable steps to try and curb this nastiest of nasty habits but there is still a lot of work to be done. If someone ever did a study of the Armenian community–I’m sure they’d find Armenia’s smoking on the rise. For a community that prides itself on being well-informed and educated–we seem to have missed the memo about all the risks that smoking poses to one’s health. Most folks know the damage that smoking does but here’s some other facts that you may not have known (www.thetruth.com).
–About one in every five deaths in the US can be attributed to tobacco related products.
–About 50,000 people a year die from second hand smoke in the US.
–2000 teenagers start smoking every day.
–Over 80 percent of all adult smokers started smoking before they were 18.
–Tobacco companies make about 1.8 billion dollars a year from underage sales.
Our children are already stupid–addicted to the internet and video games. Because of tobacco–our children are also going to grow up unhealthy and at a greater risk of dying of cancer and other smoking related diseases.
What’s so attractive about smoking anyway? I lose count when trying to recall how many times I’ve been to an Armenian dance or event and found more people standing outside smoking than inside dancing. Mothers–daughters–sons–fathers–even toothless grandfathers–all stand around puffing away and polluting the air for those of us who want to take a break from the overwhelming obnoxious heat from toxic levels of sweat inside the venue. Forget smoking outside–there’s always that one tough guy who thinks he’s Joe Pesci from Goodfellas and has to smoke inside the building during the event. He takes a drag off of his cigarette as if his life depended on it. You know the type of smoker I’m talking about. The one’s who light the cigarette and then look like they’re in pain as they inhale and then look like they finished running a marathon when they exhale. The next time you’re at an indoor event and someone decides to light up–slap them with a piece of looleh kebab and tell him or her that Skeptik sent you.
But the ultimate example of Armenian ignorance combined with tobacco was witnessed during a trip to Armenia. On the side of the road stood a man who ran a "gas station" which consisted of himself–a table–a homemade sign–and glass jars filled with petrol. (By the way–Armenia is the only place where I would recommend buying gasoline from a person with a homemade sign). Now as the man poured the gasoline into the tank of the car from the jars–a cigarette bounced up and down his chapped lower lip as he tried to make small talk. When warned about the dangers of smoking while "pumping" or pouring gas from an open container–his only reply was agreeing nod and an "I’ve heard of an accident like that happening before. It’s really sad" comment. Maybe Armenia’s think their immune to the affects of tobacco or large fireball explosions?
Consider the following. The average Armenian smoker smokes about one pack of cigarettes a day. That’s roughly 4.50 cents per pack. That comes out to approximately 31.50 cents a week. (Before I continue–I must warn you that these calculations are based on figures derived from the legal procurement of cigarettes instead of smuggling counterfeit Marlboros from Mexico). Now with 52 weeks in a year–that comes out to 1638 dollars per person. Let’s say that out of the 80,000 residents of Glendale who are Armenian–about half are male–and let’s assume that a quarter of them smoke. That’s about 10,000 young punks and old farts puffing away on cigarettes with logos like "Turkish Gold" or "Turkish Jade" or "Turkish blah blah blah." Now imagine if they took their nasty daily habit and instead donated their money to an Armenian charity. That would mean 16,380,000 dollars in funds for Armenian causes–schools–social programs–etc. Can you imagine how many lehmejoun’s 16 million dollars can buy?
So the next time you see an attractive boy or girl about to light up a cigarette–instead of telling them that it’s their health that it’s harming–tell them that their harming Armenia by literally burning their money. Maybe if we can get our act together here in the US–the chain smoking Armenia’s in Republic Square in Armenia will soon follow. In the meantime–I’ll work on a breakthrough in medical technology–a patch that will keep people from smoking and mouthing off stupid commen’s and opinions. I call it the Skeptik Smoking and Stupidity Suppressor. So far–all I have is a piece of duct tape that you place over the patient’s mouth but it still needs more work.
Skeptik Sinikian lives and works in a pineapple under the sea and writes poetry on bathroom stalls in his spare time. He can be reached for comment at [email protected] or visit his blog at www.sinikian.blogspot.com.