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‘If there are no cigars in Heaven, I shall not go’

Posted June. 11, 2018 08:14,   

Updated June. 11, 2018 08:14


When Columbus brought tobacco to Europe from the New World, it was considered as medicine. Soon after, tobacco became popular in Europe, and the lower class moved to the New World to grow tobacco. Tobacco farms spread fast from Virginia to other parts of the United States. Profits from tobacco were even one of the reasons that triggered the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.

Winston Churchill was such a heavy smoker that he even made a hole in the oxygen mask for airplanes. He had a red trashcan for cigarette butts in the War Room and bedroom of the underground bunker and a lighter was attached to a big map, because he had to light up his cigar quickly as he worked out strategies looking at the map. When he won a war, he made a V with his fingers and a cigar was in between them.

Deng Xiaoping, Stalin and King Jong Il loved smoking as well. Mao Zedong smoked with Ho Chi Minh during a meeting in 1960. In China, the biggest tobacco producing and consuming country in the world, more than half of men are smokers. Cigarettes are still popular as a gift for wedding guests in China. Native Americans thought of tobacco pipes as a symbol of peace and cooperation. French missionary Jacques Cartier who crossed the United States in the 17th century said tobacco is a god of peace and war and an arbitrator of life and death when he saw Native Americans put down their weapons when they were given cigarettes.

U.S. President Donald Trump is a strong opponent as he is an experienced negotiator and keeps off alcohol and cigarettes. And Kim Jong Un who loves to smoke could be even more uncomfortable as the North Korea-U.S. summit is going to be held in Singapore, which is the most strict smoke-free country. I hope Sentosa, which means “peace” in Sanskrit, will be a place where the end of war is declared and peace-building on the Korean Peninsula begins.

Hyo-Lim Son aryssong@donga.com