By KOF KOF
BEIJING (China Daily Show) – “That’s it – I’m done,” exhales long-term Beijing resident Zhao Bin. “After this week, it’s over.”
Zhao, 38, stubs out his cigarette, quietly expelling a lump of blood-lined sputum on the sidewalk.
“I’m finally leaving. I have to break my addiction,” Zhao says, heaving in another life-threatening lungful of noxious gas and micro-particles that has accumulated across the Chinese capital in the weeklong lead-up to Christmas.
“Let’s face it. Not living in Beijing is the only way I can carry on smoking and stay healthy.”
Zhao, now 39, is one of many mainland smokers increasingly rejecting the big city in favor of a healthier, more fulfilling tobacco-fueled existence somewhere else in the country.
“I’ve been in Beijing since I was a teenager. My father lived here, and I just picked up the habit from him,” Zhao recalls. “In those days, it was easiest way to suppress hunger pangs. And because we always saw Mao and Deng doing it, yeah – I guess, smoking was seen as ‘cool.’”
Now the long-term resident realizes his proletarian, dictator-chic lifestyle was desperately unhealthy. “I used to tell people I lived in Beijing because of all the culture – the rock n’ roll, the rebellion,“ he shrugs. “But now that’s gone, all that’s left is a pointless habit.”
Of primary concern for the family are Zhao’s grandchildren, Terry, 13, and Passion, 7.
“I would like to grow old the traditional way – living with my children, complaining about their lifestyle,” Zhao coughs. “My doctor warned me, if I want to live long enough to see my grandkids take up smoking, I need to get out of here.”
Although Zhao remains optimistic about finding somewhere unpolluted by industrial overspill or construction debris, his options may be limited.
“I hope to find a nice mud-brick cottage someplace, maybe near a plastics factory. Maybe Gansu, or Anhui.” Zhao sighs. “Somewhere nice.”