Dear Prime Minister Qarase,

Ni Sa Yadra. I hope I got that right. My name is Brian and I am writing you about an opportunity I’d like to explore in Fiji. I didn’t know who best to write to so please forgive me if writing to you, the Prime Minister, is a faux pas. Direct me if I should send my correspondence elsewhere.

As a boy I was certain that Canada was hell, or at least purgatory, and that if I was good when I grew up I’d get to live in a really nice country.

I’d like to give you some background on myself before I briefly outline my proposal. As a young man I was fascinated with geography, and living in Canada tropical locales were especially appealing. I spent many cold days of my childhood in my local library reading up on exotic destinations. My favourite book was The Statesman’s Yearbook–ranked in the top 20 best reference resources in the Library Journal. Although it was very dry reading and very technical I somehow felt good knowing the number of telephones per capita, civil aviation issues, and number of dentists in far away lands. The long detailed descriptions made me feel like I was in those foreign countries. And every country, no matter how crumby, had something good going for it.

Well, the other day I was in my local library and they were selling some old reference materials. Although my personal library is a tad overstocked I still browsed–I am an unabashed bibliophile. Lo and behold in the pile of directories, dictionaries, and arcane reference materials was the 2002 Statesman Review. It was priced at $5 making it the most expensive book in the lot and by far the most expensive off sale I have ever found at the library. I just had to buy it and alas that night I was reliving my childhood, reading up about every facet of life on every part of the globe. I couldn’t believe how much the world had changed–different flags, different countries, different currency. I always liked to think I was pretty current on global issues but the thousands of pages of detailed information seemed both dismaying and daunting. I knew at that moment I had to do better—I ran out and bought the 2005 Statesman’s Yearbook.

I greedily read through the book and I savoured the entries on countries in the Pacific region. As a boy I was certain that Canada was hell, or at least purgatory, and that if I was good when I grew up I’d get to live in a really nice country. Of course, Canada isn’t hell, it’s quite a fine place, and I haven’t been that good but truth be told I’d rather live somewhere else all the same. During my college education I took a geography course on the Pacific–it was suppose to be an easy course but a last minute substitution of professors made it an arduous A- grade– it cemented my affections for that area of the world. Your country is my first choice, it seems very idyllic, and the official language is English–talk about simpatico.

Getting to the point, I read that Fiji has the highest per capita smoking rate in the world. I know the government there has gone through some turbulent times and racial tensions are high and tobacco addiction preys on people with stress, but this seems incredible to me. I think that you’d agree that smoking is a nasty habit and incongruous with picture paradise Fiji. I shudder to think about the health implications, costs, and danger it poses to the children of your country.

I propose that I develop and implement a smoking cessation program on your islands using a combination of hypnosis, hip marketing, and nicotine gum. Expense of the program can be paid mainly by a hefty tax on tobacco products (duh). Moreover, tourists can aid in the campaign [read: voluntary tax] by being offered a delicious and expensive cocktail in which all proceeds go to anti-smoking education. It will be a pineapple and coconut concoction, called a “Cessation Charlie”, amply sweet and decorated in a garish fashion with little umbrellas and chunks of papaya. Properly priced and marketed the drink will pay for the entirety of the campaign.

I am aiming for an optimistic and realistic goal of 50% reduction within 10 years and a 80% reduction in 20 for the youth of Fiji. Admittedly, it will take all of our combined efforts and talents to attain this objective–but can we afford not to try? I can fly out at a moment’s notice to start. While you deal with the bureaucratic hurdles I will tirelessly attend a tanning bed to condition my fish belly white skin to the hot pacific sun.

Sincerely,

Brian McAsey