Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

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Three women suck wine from a jar like it was water, wooden pipes smoking and dangling in their hands.

They are celebrating the new harvest, puffing the pipes in between sips. Tobacco smoke hangs in the air like a thick mist.

This is the Brau community in the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum. According to Lao Dong newspaper, it's mainly the women who smoke tobacco this way.

The hill tribe is prominent in parts of Laos and Cambodia, but this community in Vietnam was only "discovered" in 1991 when a fire burned down all their homes.

They made headlines at the time for their exotic customs like filing teeth to mark one's maturity, straining ears to make large earring holes as a beauty standard and lots of tattoos, especially on their foreheads.

Despite the local media deriding them as "backwards" in every way, their numbers have grown here from 192 people in 1991 to 441 in 2012. They now live in concrete homes built by the government and are slowly shedding most of their old customs.

The women now smoke and drink all the time, not just during celebrations, according to Lao Dong.

The village is all women and children during the day as the men either work in the fields or go to Cambodia across the border to collect valuable timber.

The women are all heavy smokers, especially the older ones. Nang Bu, 103, still keeps a batch of tobacco in her pocket even though she is paralyzed in bed and cannot smoke anymore.


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Every house has tobacco plants. The Brau women often smoke raw, untreated tobacco, the smell of which is repugnant to non-smokers.

Each woman has a pipe and a pack of tobacco with them all the time, while young girls prefer cigarettes to pipes.

They gather in their front yards to smoke and gossip while watching after their children all day.

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