Typhoon in a Teacup

Oh shit, an artist decided to jazz up Chinatown with a mural of a Samsui woman puffing on a cigarette. You know, those Samsui women who used to break their backs carrying bricks in construction? Yeah, those ones. But smoking? How can lah?!

Predictably, the self-appointed sanctimonious guardians of morality got all their panties twisted and threw a hissy fit. Apparently, our cigarette-smoking lady looks too much like a prostitute for their delicate sensibilities. (I’d love to know where they’re getting their prostitute-spotting expertise from.) And if that wasn’t enough, the smoking itself had them clutching their pearls. Smoking? In public art? Quick, someone call the Pope!

Of course, the usual chorus of outraged voices joined in, making grand statements. One organization even said “This artistic choice may inadvertently perpetuate a male gaze that exoticizes female subjects, which could detract from a true appreciation of their contributions.”


The authorities, in full election-year panic mode, decided they had to investigate, giving Singaporeans something new to gossip about over their char kway teow and Tiger beer.

Yes, we get it, smoking is the devil. There’s a whole industry dedicated to vilifying tobacco. Meanwhile, the WHO just reminded us that alcohol is still wreaking havoc on global health, causing 2.6 million deaths in 2019 alone. But hey, alcohol ads are everywhere, and the local papers even have a weekly alcohol feature. Because apparently, turning cars into lethal weapons after a few drinks is less scandalous than a puff on a cigarette.

But sure, let’s keep wringing our hands over a mural while ignoring the real killers. Makes perfect sense.

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