Monday, February 28, 2011

I Want to Quit Smoking

Do you know what you inhale from the air? [Pic]

I think I have just smoked a cigarette or two, unwillingly.

I am a smoker, or more accurately, a passive smoker. Everyday, without lighting up a single stick, I inhale what is left behind by smokers around me. Whenever I am near them, I would try to keep a distance and retreat into my self-defined safety zone. Being away from the choking tobacco stench. I want to believe that I would be safe from the secondhand smoke. But, I know too well that I am merely fooling myself.

Many non-smokers are happy to check the "I do not smoke" box in their health declaration forms. They gleefully think that they live a healthier lifestyle than their smoking counterparts. Do they really?

WHO (World Health Organization) defines passive (involuntary) smoking to mean 'the exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke which is a mixture of exhaled mainstream smoke and side stream smoke released from a smoldering cigarette or other smoking device and diluted with ambient air.'

Many children are victims of passive smoking. [Pic]

Every year 'passive smoking kills 600,000 worldwide' and one-third of those killed are children. Children who breathe secondhand smoke are at increased risk of health problems such as asthma, pneumonia, bronchitis, ear infections, wheezing and coughing.

When a person smokes a cigarette, only 15% of that smoke is actually inhaled by the smoker. The other 85% goes into the air, and then into the lungs of those nearby. It is estimated that a non-smoker who spends two hours in a room where someone is smoking will inhale four cigarettes worth of smoke.

(Read media advisory issued by The Singapore General Hospital)

The deadliness of passive smoking has never been more certain. There are about 1.2 billion smokers around the world who constantly make billions others puff involuntarily. Year after year, thousands of passive smokers suffer health consequences but many remain ignorant about the seriousness of the matter.

'Passive smoking harms children more than adults' and the young ones are unable to protect themselves. They have no choice but to live with family members who feed them with dangerous chemicals. Secondhand smoke has at least 250 chemicals which are known to be toxic or carcinogenic (cancer causing). Cigarette smoke can stick on smokers and continue to harm young children who come into contact with them.

Smoking area clearly demarcated
with yellow lines. [Link]

The Singapore government is determined to make the city state tobacco-free. The National Environment Agency (NEA) spells out the 'List of Public Places and Public Service Vehicles Where Smoking is Banned'. Business outlets are required to clearly demarcate 'smoking areas' for smokers to be confined within (picture above).

The Singapore Customs impose a hefty sin tax on cigarettes at SGD $0.352 (aprox US$0.28) for every gram or part thereof of each stick of cigarette. SGD $877 million (Approx. US $687 mil) tax was collected from the smokers in 2010.

Brands such as Marlboro or Dunhill are going at around SGD $12 (Approx. US$9.40) in Singapore. In the neighboring Malaysia, you can get the same thing at only RM10 (Approx US$3.30). The huge price difference means lots of smuggling activities at the borders. In 2010, 2.3 million packets of contraband cigarettes were seized by the Singapore Customs.

Singapore is working towards a tobacco-free city.  [Pic]

The Singapore government is certainly not stopping here. Last year, the law was strengthened to ban more tobacco products and to step up public education in smoking cessation.

Yet, I think more can be done.

The harsh truth for passive smokers is that there is simply no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Passive smokers ought to learn to protect themselves and their loved ones. For example, they can teach the young ones to stay away from secondhand smoke.

(Read 'How to Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones from Secondhand Smoke')

More can be done to keep
our air tobacco-free [

The law currently does not provide much protection for passive smokers. This is a big area to work on. A few days ago, an Australian court imposed a ban on a granny from smoking near her grandchildren. The move is very much welcome by those who know too well the danger of passive smoking.

The number of death caused by smoking is high, much higher than the number of death caused by AIDS, road accidents, drug abuse and murder put together.(See example of statistics)

To say that secondhand smoke kills is to make an understatement. Be informed.

"Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible." ~Dalai Lama~

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Picture Blog #18 : A Thought A Day (Part 1)

Your mind is probably racing to answer this question. The thing is, you have thousands of thoughts each day and they can be all over the place. It is easy to have some thoughts but it is not so easy to crystallize them.

Most of your thoughts evaporate into nothingness and are never recalled again. However, some of them are developed into ideas which are translated into actions. Some of these actions lead to positive changes in your life.

Put it simply, the quality of your life depends on how well you crystallize your thoughts and put the essence into action.

There are many ways to harvest your thoughts. Writing them down is one of the useful ways. You would have to explore and experiment to find your winning formula.

On a daily basis, I park my crystallized thoughts in Tumblr in a few words. Since a picture speaks a thousand words, a photograph is added too. Here is a compilation of some of those thoughts taken from Vanilla Lenscape. Hopefully some of my thoughts trigger some new ideas for you.

It’s nice to be important,
but it’s more important to be nice.

Renew your passion daily.

you might want to read:  Tumblr - Connecting with You



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Monday, February 14, 2011

Sometimes, I Forget...

Do we really have to complain all the time?  [Pic]

When was the last time you complain?

For many, that won't be too long ago. Yesterday? An hour ago? As you are reading this article? Typically, we complain all the time and we never seem to run out of things to complain about. In doing so, we may miss out something potent: The power of gratitude.

At any one time, we have enough reasons to whine or to be thankful. The choice is ours. I may not have everything I want but I have chosen to appreciate much of what I have. The problem is...sometimes, I forget.

Millions are homeless and unemployed. [Pic]
I forget that...

- I have a job when 205 million are unemployed

- I have a roof over my head but more than 100 million are homeless,

- I can read and write while at least 1 billion out there are illiterate and women make up two-thirds of them,

- I have at least 3 meals a day when there are one billion people who have to endure constant hunger and are undernourished,

- I have access to clean toilets when 2.5 billion people struggle with basic sanitation and do not even have somewhere safe, private or hygienic to go to, and

- I live in a place with high per capita income (Singapore is ranked 3rd in the world) while 1.4 billion people are living in extreme poverty

Don't miss out the power of gratitude. [Pic]

My list goes on. I believe I have many more reasons to be grateful than to whine. I just have to remember that.

The power of gratitude gives you energy to fight your daily stress. It makes you feel rich instantly by realizing that you already have so much. Gratitude is contagious and the people around you stand to gain much, without you having to do more. Very often, gratitude is an act of giving a lot at very little or no cost. 

Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain
and most fools do. -
Benjamin Franklin

On the other hand, complaining is an act of momentous self-gratification. You feel good for a while but you soon feel as sick as before, if not worse. Not only you get nothing out of it, the people around you suffer too. Because of you, they are reminded on their real or imaginary plight. They start to complain too. Soon, you find yourself living in fumes of angry air.

Start to take steps to benefit from the power of gratitude. Make it a habit. One of the easy ways is to end your day by completing this sentence "I am thankful for...". Build up your list and see your real wealth grow. In time to come, you will find fewer and fewer reasons to whine.

Don't work so hard just to reach where you have set out to go. You may finally get there and realize that you have already missed out much of what you have along the way.

Be grateful. I am because you have taken time to read this.

You might also like to read:
You Are Not Happy Because...

"Only a stomach that rarely feels hungry scorns common things."  ~Horace~

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Monday, February 7, 2011

Lunar New Year Ang Pow 101

Traditional Lunar New Year dish - Yusheng (raw fish salad) [Pic]

The Chinese Lunar New Year is celebrated over a period of 15 days.

From 3 Feb to 17 Feb this year, I join billions of Chinese around the world celebrate our most important traditional festival. As in all traditions, what we do today is largely a reflection of what how our forefathers think in the past. One of the most common practices during the Lunar New Year is the giving of red packets.

What are Red Packets?

Red packets are red envelopes enclosed with money. Generally, they symbolize 'good luck'.

It is hongbao (红包) in Mandarin but we like to call it ang pow here in Singapore. Else where, it is also known as li xi (利是 or 利事) or lai see as pronounced in Cantonese. Li xi can roughly be translated into 'good for business'. Ang pows are also given out during other happy occasions such as wedding and birthday celebrations.

Red envelopes are usually decorated
with motifs related to abundance, luck,
health and happiness.

How to give ang pows during Lunar New Year?

This is a centuries old tradition and many variations have evolved over time. Today, it would be difficult to get all the Chinese to agree on a common set of practice.

There are possibly many variations around the world but here are 12 seen in Singapore:

12. Who should give?

Tradition: Married couples or the elderly give ang pows to unmarried juniors.

Variation: Young unmarried adults give ang pows to their parents once they begin to receive their own income.

11. Who to give to?

Tradition: Ang pows are given to juniors or unmarried young adults.

Variation: Some elderly continues to give ang pows to younger relatives even after they are married. As a gesture of goodwill, bosses give ang pows to workers. Appreciative customers may also give ang pows to service personnel such as waiters.

10. Must ang pows contain money?

Tradition: Ang pows contain money. This tradition originated as giving Ya Sui Qian (压岁钱) to children to ward off bad luck. Ya Sui Qian roughly means 'money used to suppress the evil spirits'.

Variation: Sometimes, chocolate coins are found in ang pows. It would be rude to do this to friends and relatives. However, shops may give them out to please their customers in a more affordable way. Some businesses give ang pows containing lottery tickets and hope that their customers will have some luck with them.

This Lunar New Year is the Year of the Rabbit. [Pic]

9. What is an appropriate amount of money to give?

Tradition: The amount varies with circumstances (See 8). In Singapore, it is not uncommon to give from a couple of dollars up to several hundred. Even numbers are preferred because odd numbers are usually associated with cash given during funerals. A point to note, even numbers here are not in the mathematical sense. For example, 30 is odd but 20 is even. "8", sounding similar to 'fortune' is welcome while "4" sounding similar to 'death' is to be avoided.

Variation: It is acceptable to give a single bank note of S$10 or S$50. It is also common to find ang pows containing S$4 made up of two S$2 notes.

8. How to vary the amount?

Tradition: Amounts vary based on the closeness of relationship. For example, a higher amount is given to nephews and lesser to children of acquaintances.

Variation: A higher amount is expected from a wealthier person. A higher amount is also given to friends and relatives with lesser means. Working singles usually get less compared to their non-working counterparts.

7. When to give?

Tradition: Give ang pows during the 15 days of celebration.

Variation: Give ang pows a few days before or after the 15-day period as well. This is especially so if there have been no opportunities to meet up during the new year period.

Pineapple tarts are hot favorites
for Lunar New Year.

6. Can you request for one?

Tradition: A married person would not turn down such a request as it is unlucky to do so. However, parents regard the act of request as rude and would guide their children not to do it.

Variation: Youngsters cite greetings such as gong xi fa cai , hong bao yi ge lai (恭喜发财 红包一个来) and request for ang pows in jest. The phrase means 'Wishing you happiness and prosperity. May I have an ang pow from you please?

5. When do you open the ang pows?

Tradition: Avoid opening the envelopes in front of relatives as it is considered not courteous.

Variation: Parents may open their children's ang pows (discreetly) so that they can reciprocate in terms of amount of money.

4. Must ang pows contain new notes?

Tradition: Brand new notes are enclosed in red envelopes.

Variation: Newer-looking notes are issued by banks to cut down printing and to be more environmentally friendly.

Mandarin oranges are traditional symbols of
abundance and good fortune.

3. Must ang pows be red?

Tradition: Ang pow literally means 'red package' or 'red envelope'.

Variation: Golden, yellow or orange packages are used in place of red ones.

2. Can you give coins in ang pows?

Tradition: Cash is given discreetly in red packets and the amounts are not immediately known. In the past, it was common to have coins in sealed envelopes.

Variation: Usually one or two notes instead of heavy coins are used so as to make it difficult to guess the amount inside. The envelopes are usually not sealed.

1. Must you give ang pows in person?

Tradition: Juniors receive ang pows when they visit the elderly.

Variation: Ang pows are given to absent relatives through those who visit in person.

Red is considered a 'lucky' color. [Pic]

When I was a kid, I paid little attention to how ang pows were supposed to be given. My main preoccupation then was the amount of my annual harvest. Today, I continue the tradition my ancestors have passed down. This time, I exercise some discretion. While I do observe parts of the tradition, I also adapt the practice with a modern twist. I believe our future generations will do likewise, continue to adopt and adapt.

No matter how traditions evolve over time, they remain an important glue to our social fabric. Let's not lose them.

See another article on Lunar New Year:
"Tradition is a guide and not a jailer." 
~William Somerset Maugham~

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