Is smoking associated with masculinity?

Puff Puff Pak follows the film-maker’s journey of quitting smoking while exploring many other themes


KARACHI: Pakistani film-maker and journalist Fahad Naveed’s documentary Puff Puff Pak was screened at T2F in Karachi on Wednesday.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion on the film – between the film’s director and producer, founder of Girls at Dhabas Sadia Khatri and artist Samya Arif, and hosted by Jahanzeb Hussain. The panelists dissected how, and if so, the practice of smoking is gendered.

After quitting smoking one summer in New York, Naveed returned to Pakistan, where the habit isn’t as profoundly discouraged and a lot more common. More importantly, in Pakistan, smoking is still associated with masculinity, with “being a man” – a theme that Naveed largely explores in his film.

Read: Things Pakistani men need to stop saying to women

The synopsis of Puff Puff Pak states, “After quitting smoking in New York, [Naveed] goes back home to Karachi, where his friends still smoke like chimneys, feminists are lighting cigarettes to fight the patriarchy, and his mother is going through chemotherapy.”

The film featured Naveed’s mother, as well as panelists Khatri and Arif themselves, who gave their insight on being Pakistani women who smoke.

The panel discussion that followed continued the conversation in the short film on how gender stereotypes are tied to smoking.

Sadia Khatri, founder of Girls at Dhabas, sits on the rooftop while taking in the environment and a puff. PHOTO: Fahad Naveed

Naveed said he was aware that quitting to smoke would be a completely separate experience for a woman. “When it’s part of your [gender] identity, quitting is different.”

Khatri elaborated that smoking is a “form of protest and a source of power” for women and that quitting smoking for women carries “different connotations and weight”.

Read: Smoking scandal: Elephant seen lighting up without any regard for public image

A member of the audience added to the discussion, saying that many men feel threatened by women who smoke as smoking and cigarettes are associated with aggression, and the male body, and how the male body is perceived in society.

“Smoking is connected to gender issues in our society,” said Arif, adding that it makes one wonder that “if men have an issue with women smoking, what other issues would they have?”

A man enjoys a puff in his kiosk at Karachi’s Sea View. PHOTO: Fahad Naveed

She added that it wasn’t so much a question of why women smoke, rather why couldn’t they smoke freely and openly. “Are my lungs smaller or something?” she asked.

In the 29-minute-long documentary, Naveed touches upon several themes: kicking the habit, gender, tobacco companies and advertisement, and cancer.

Watch the trailer below:

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