"One more way smoking is bad for you"

By James Stefan
This item appears on page 55 of the November 2013 issue.

Tell us about the funniest thing that happened to you while traveling in a foreign country. (ITN prints no info on destinations in the United States.) There are no restrictions on length. ITN staff will choose each month’s winner, who will receive a free one-year subscription to ITN. Include your full mailing address. Entries not chosen cannot be acknowledged. 

This month's winner is JAMES STEFAN of Sarasota, FL:


Several years ago, I was visiting Mostar in Bosnia & Herzogovina and attended an evening meeting of the local Rotary Club. After the meeting, the president and secretary of the club invited me to a nearby café to sample some of the local wine. 

The secretary, who was a chain-smoker, had been a corporal in the 1992-1995 independence war and he proceeded to recount his wartime experiences in which 10 of the 12 men in his squad had been lost. As he consumed more wine, he became much more animated, and the hand which held the ever-present cigarette flew in all directions.  

Suddenly, the club president picked up the jug of water that was on the table and poured it onto my right shoulder. Apologetically, he showed me where the ash had dropped off the end of the secretary's cigarette and landed on my shirt.

The shirt was labeled "Do not expose to flame," as it had a sun-protection treatment, and as soon as the hot ash made contact with the shirt, the shirt flared! 

Thankfully, the president's immediate reaction prevented any injury; while my shirt was ruined, the skin beneath was barely red. And without hesitation, the club secretary promptly lit another cigarette!