Smoke wafts into the interview room as Oga Tobs, or Tobacco, walks in, eyes dour, lips darkened, coughing. He refuses to sit; instead, he brings out a cigarette and smokes while facing the window. I cover my nose with a face mask to protect myself.
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Please, please, my name is Tobs, not Tobacco. You human beings have bastardised my name and caused me unnecessary wahala.
Oga Tobs, welcome.
Na so. Another World Tobacco Day, another interview. You better hurry up because many other people will want to interview me today.
You are a hot cake o!
I can be hot, but I am not cake, please. (Laughs at his dry joke)
So, how far?
What can I say? Every year, it is the same old same old. That international hospital will shout to the heavens that it is my day, and instead of them telling people to celebrate with me, they make me look like a villain. How have I offended them now?
Well, you know that smoking causes many health problems. I mean, even you smoking now is a bit uncomfortable for me.
Ehen? So? I’m just taking my stuff to unwind, eh. Abi, don’t you want me to relax? Life is hard now, and we all need something that can help us de-stress. Smoking is my way of de-stressing.
But you are making me uncomfortable. Aside from the discomfort, I am a secondary smoker because of you.
Is that a bad thing?
Yes, it is. Secondary smoking, in many ways, is just as bad as smoking itself. It puts me at risk for many medical conditions, including cancer.
Mr Tobs puts off his cigarette and sits down.
So, why do you do it, Oga Tobs? Why do you cause so many problems?
Does it look like I want to cause problems? I was sitting on my own jejely as a fine plant when one of your people came and decided to try burning me. The rest, they say, is history.
Hmm. I find that hard to believe, Oga Tobs.
Can you see the problem? Your international hospital and doctors like to make me look like the villain when I am also a victim of all this. Did I say I want to become a cigarette? Or Snuff? And all the other things you people have made me? I didn’t ask for all this o. It is human beings that use me as they like, and it is human beings that cause all the medical conditions that you said they have when they use me. I am harmless on my own, but when people wield me, I have the power to harm them. I don’t mean actual harm to anybody.
Wait, so you mean to tell me that you mean no harm?
Yes! I was a plant, for goodness’ sake! Do you want to know my real name? It is not even Tobacco; it is Nicotiana Solanaceae. Like any other plant, I was a plant, and I have now become a commodity. I even want to rest abeg because they are experimenting with me and making newer and newer variations.
But humans are so addicted to you. Many people wake up, and the first thing they do is smoke.
And how is that my fault? Human beings like what is bad for them sometimes, and they keep making more of such bad stuff when they know the consequences.
So, what do you suggest people should do?
Oga tobacco squeals with laughter.
Why are you asking the lousy guy what to do?
Because you seem not to be a bad guy after all?
Well, if you put it that way, it is straightforward. People need to know the truth for themselves because the truth will set them free. I am an experiment that has become one of the longest-lasting projects in the world. People have been consuming me for millennia, and I am still one of the bestselling commodities. The truth is that I may not be going away anytime soon.
Yes! You people will not even allow me to go.
So, what can we do?
The one thing that the international hospital has got right; people should stop consuming me. I even want to go back to just being a plant again. My life has become so complex. And you see those companies that modify me? Hmm, there is a special place for them in heaven. They keep chopping me down to create these bastardised versions of me, and that way, they reduce the amounts of plants that can release oxygen into the atmosphere and take away carbon dioxide. The most painful thing is that they burn me; they burn me and create more carbon dioxide that eventually poisons the environment. So, they are killing people and killing the world too. Only people like that have a special place in heaven.
This information isn’t good. Not just people, but the environment too?
Yes oh. Hmm. I am exhausted at this point because I get such a bad rap when it is human beings that create and destroy. Human beings don’t even know how to dispose of the cigarettes they take sef after using them. The waste even accumulates in ways that you people cannot afford to clean up. I have never seen a species so eager to harm itself than humanity. The thing does shock me. Anyway, I have to run. I have another interview.
Thank you so much for all you have shared today. I am sure that people will learn a thing or two and change for the better.
Hmm. I hope so because there is no time o. I am drained; for the world we live in. I am even worried now that I am addicted to taking cigarettes myself. That is why I want to go back to being a plant again.
I hope your wish comes true. You aren’t such a bad guy, Oga Tobs.
Shebi, I told you now. Later.
Oga Tobs stands and sprints out of the room.
According to the World Health Organization, we cut down 600,000,000 trees to make cigarettes. We release 84,000,000 tonnes of CO2 Emissions into the air raising global temperatures. We use 22,000,000,000 tonnes of water used to make cigarettes.
Tobacco kills over 8 million people every year and destroys our environment. We lose both ways because it harms human health and poisons the environment through farming, manufacturing, dissemination, utilisation, and post-consumer waste. Say NO to Tobacco today. It is in our hands.
Written by Dr Chinaza Ebere Eziaghighala.