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Smoking Brus In Papua New Guinea – raw tobacco in newspaper

Smoking Brus

Ever one to try new things I was drawn to a woman selling what looked like weed wrapped in newspaper. I was quickly informed that smoking brus was occurring.. What is brus you ask? Well it turns out it is unregulated, but local grown tobacco.

The Pakora Show in Mount Hagen

Said smoke was being sold when we visited the Piakona Show on beautiful mountain top in Papua New Guinea. This show like many others is considered a lesser event than the main Mount Hagen festival, but is similar in many ways. You could even call it a slimmed down version, but with more chance to interact with the locals.

You can read about the Piakona Festival here.

Another thing that was bit different to the main Mount Hagen festival was that there was a lot more handicrafts, as well as street foods and other bits and bobs on sale, which again led me to brus……

What exactly is brus?

On seeing people smoking something in a newspaper I assumed it was herbal only to be told that yes indeed it was herbal, but neither weed, nor tobacco. This led to myself and an Italian “former smoker” deciding to try it.

Well it turned out that in fact it was actually tobacco and not some weird herbal mix. not so bad for me, but alas for my Italian friend it meant that he was very much back onto smoking…..

What is smoking brus in Papua New Guinea like?

As someone who is not much of a fan of rolling tobacco I was actually pleasantly surprised by how good it was. The tobacco had a kick to it and the newspaper was not actually all that bad as vehicle although I am sure it is not exactly good for you.

And the price? Well this stuff costs but a mere 1 Kina for 2, or 12.5 cents each. For some comparison here a regular pal of cigarettes costs around 15 dollars, with a single smoke being anywhere up to a buck. Yep Papua New Guinea is damned expensive.

To read about Papua New Guinea being expensive click here.

Illicit alcohol and tobacco in Papua New Guinea

And this where things get confusing. Papua New Guinea is damned expensive country, but people pretty much have no money. Sadly simply taxing tobacco and alcohol does not mean that people don’t do them and thus smoking brus which is essentially homegrown tobacco and newspaper is the affordable option.

In fact many people grow their own tobacco to create their own brus cigarettes, as well as sell it on the grey market.

And apparently this is a huge deal in Asia right now, with governments really blowing their tops about unlicensed tobacco and liquor. On the face of this it is because of safety for people, but the reality is that governments really just don’t wanna lose out on revenue.

You can read about illicit alcohol in ASEAN here.

And this of course leads us to that other popular illicit product paia wara, or PNG firewater, the moonshine created as an affordable alternative to the extremely epxsove imported liqueur within the country. And yes ethanol has been known to kill people, as it does in most countries, but it has also garnered a rather cult status too, with their even being a song about it.

To read about firewater in Papua New Guinea click here.

So, while the legality of smoking brus in Papaua New Guinea and washing it down with firewater might be a tiny bit grey, if you really wanna do as the locals do, them this is very much the way forward.

Want ti see PNG with me? Check out our next tour.