An Indonesian woman exhales cigarette smoke into the mouth of a gaunt, naked patient at a Jakarta clinic, where tobacco is openly touted as a cancer cure. The Western patient is suffering from emphysema, a condition she developed from decades of smoking. Along with cancer and autism, it’s just one of the ailments the Griya Balur clinic claims it can cure with cigarettes.
“I missed this,” says the woman, a regular customer, with an American accent, as Phil Collins’s “I Can Feel It” blares in the background. Griya Balur would be shut down in many parts of the world, but not in Indonesia, one of the developing-country new frontiers for big tobacco as it seeks to replace its dwindling profits in the health-conscious West. Long traditions of tobacco use combined with poor regulation and the billions of dollars that flow into government coffers from the tobacco industry mean places like Griya Balur go unchallenged.
The “treatment” for the emphysema sufferer includes the blowing of smoke from “divine cigarettes” infused with “nanotechnology” to remove their cancer-causing “free radicals”, through a tube into her diseased lungs. Smoke is also blown into her ears and nose, while she holds a cup of aspirin over her right eye. The Phil Collins music, it seems, has no curative properties. Griya Balur founder Dr. Gretha Zahar told AFP she had treated 60,000 people with tobacco smoke over the past decade.