Lots of Men Smoke Around Here
One of the benefits of having the fantastic host family that I do is that I don’t have to deal with a lot of smoking. One signature behavior of most Azerbaijani men is that they smoke a lot of cigarettes. In my previous host family, my host brothers didn’t like cigarettes, but my host father had no problem hot-boxing a room with a few smokes. And, luckily for me, my current host family has no smokers. Obviously my host mom won’t smoke, and Miri has a great “I’m disgusted by that” face he exhibits whenever something like smoking comes up.
Because smoking doesn’t happen in the home, that works out really well for me. Almost anywhere else is fair game. Interestingly, at the old credit union office, I had convinced the guys there that if they smoked, I would become very ill. They insisted on smoking in the hallway whenever I was around. That improved things a lot. Another place where people smoke a good deal is on the bus. While technically it’s not allowed to smoke on buses and marşrutkas, the drivers obsessively destroy this rule. And when a guy needs a smoke, they just go to the back of the bus, where the women aren’t, and light up. On my bus ride to Minqəcevir, a number of guys wanted to chain-smoke the entire way. To counteract that, I opened all the windows I could. It was a nice, passive-aggressive way to alleviate the situation.
I think there are also a few other factors at work here. The first is that a lot of these men don’t really have anything else to do. They aren’t necessarily real go-getters. I’ve always got something to do because I have a book to read or a blog post to write. But for the men around here, if they aren’t working, or their job is driving, then why not have a cigarette? There’s also the factor of cost. Cigarettes are cheap around here. Just under a dollar for a pack of the mid-level smokes. And they don’t come with surgeon general warnings. I think if I was able to introduce a cigarette tax here, I would probably consider my service complete at that point. The other main factor is really just something you’ll see anywhere: it’s “cool” to smoke. That just contributes to their masculinity.