The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Ilco van der Linde Headshot

English Smokers Will Change the World - or at Least Their World

Posted: Updated:

Last week I was in London for 24 hours to meet the management of Emmanuel Jal, the South Sudanese rapper and MasterPeace ambassador.

"Jump in mate, where are you from?" my London cab driver asked at Victoria Station. "From Amsterdam, but I live in Spain." He reacted like someone slapped him in the face. "Spain! It must be awful living there now, with the crisis! Soon we will pay the price when we have to take care of the bailout for their banks. You know, here we will all vote to leave the EU, before it's too late."

Why can I never just say yes or no to the Vox Populis, globally spread by cab drivers? "Look, I can imagine your fear, but I think the future of your economy lies within Europe. You can't survive on your island. We need each other too much within Europe. It will eventually pay out to give the south a break."

My cab driver turned his head, raised an eyebrow and asked me: "Do you really think the EU will get out of this crisis once?"

"Of course it will. It's not the first crisis, nor the last. During 30 years it helped to bring wealth and peace to the continent. The Top 10 of the Human Development Index (HDI) contains six European countries! All Europeans have a much higher living standard than 30 years ago and there are no more dictators."

This was enough to lead the conversation to what bothers him most of all. "Mate, thanks to the EU this country is a dictatorship! I can't smoke in a pub, I can't smoke in my car, I can't even smoke in a private club! Pubs have to close down because they lose clients. And you know what? The English dictators smoke all day! You know why? Because they gather in a palace..."

I told him that I actually liked the non-smoking policy; no more stinking hair or clothes after some clubbing. No more watery eyes. And what about lung cancer? And I explained that after ten years of non-smoking policy in New York the bars have more visitors now, because the vast majority turned out to prefer a healthier environment. I told him about a Nigerian UK citizen who clearly sees that Europe is actually a paradise compared to all other continents. But I noticed that I lost him. He no longer answered me. His face was in 'angry' mode. I changed the topic to clear the air. So, what does your wife do? "She works for Tommy Hilfiger, exporting clothes all over Europe." This time I kept my mouth shut. But I think he could read my mind, he sighed and said slowly, with a smile on his face: "Now I really need a cigarette."