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Death of the behemoth: An essay on smoking Death of the behemoth: An essay on smoking
by Alexander Mikhaylov
2008-03-02 08:46:56
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Apparently, this animal has never suffered from a lack of publicity. Soviet military complexes, US military complexes, and now even ‘Phillip Morris’ corporation were all called a ‘behemoth’ at least dozen times. Speaking of this latter candidate to the current political zoo, it was rumored just recently that the ‘Phillip Morris’ behemoth is slowly dying. The rumors caught my attention when I came across a certain article on ‘Yahoo’ news regarding a ban on smoking in US Congress. It seems that the tobacco industry, at least in the US, is under heavy shellfire. So, is the creature really dying? Hmm…

Call me a masochist, but being a heavy smoker myself, I am always captivated by all the news articles related to the anti-smoking campaign. Let me put it this way: I cannot, in all honesty, say that smoking is good for anyone. I am nearly sure it is a dangerous habit and a filthy one too. What arrests my attention, however, is an interesting turn that this campaign takes.

They say that smoking is dangerous for your health.

It seems there is no point arguing about it. Of course it is dangerous for your health. Everyone knows it by now. The question is: how do we know that? Let’s see…

I think it was a couple of months ago when I read yet another curious Yahoo article related to the smoking issue. Among other things, the author stated that ‘millions of people die from smoke-related illnesses every year in the US alone.’ Quite a statement, isn’t it? Personally, I feel that it is only due to our habit of skipping through such articles that we do not pay proper attention to their actual content.

Just picture it for a moment. Every year millions of people are dying from smoking-related illnesses in the US alone! Wow! It is a sheer wonder that the US has not become depopulated yet. I mean, when I am reading this, I am getting a certain impression that the author talks about bubonic plague or something equally devastating. Therefore, it is not radioactive waste, heavy pollution, violent crimes, suicide, wars, obesity, etc. that kills people – it is cigarettes.

Speaking of written warnings against smoking, anti-tobacco slogans on cigarette packs sometimes also turn out to be a fascinating read. For instance, this is what I spotted on a cigarette pack in the Czech Republic: Smoking makes you sterile. Luckily for tobacco companies no one has tried yet to use their product as a handy remedy against unwanted pregnancies, otherwise ‘Phillip Morris’ alone would have been flooded by lawsuits by now.

I feel equally mesmerized when I read something like this: Tobacco contains ‘carbon dioxide’, ‘benzol’, and God only knows what else. Leave alone for a moment the fact that you must hold at least an advanced degree in chemistry to decipher such a statement. Let’s try to apply a different line of thinking here, namely: if burned gasoline emits even the same amount of carbon dioxide, how come you never see a huge warning printed across, say, the hood of some brand new 4-wheel drive, stating something like, ‘Don’t drive this baby –it emits carbon dioxide (in amounts equal to a hundred smokers, locked in an airtight room?). Surely, it would be a consistent move in protecting people from poisonous chemicals.

Smoking should be banned from all public places.

I disapprove of smoking in public places. I hate to sit in a suffocating atmosphere and I hate the stink of dirty ashtrays. Even if I smoke daily, I prefer to spend the rest of my time breathing clear air and I fully sympathize with those who refuse to tolerate the stink. On the other hand, I fail to understand why smokers shall be chased from the company of their fellow humans as if they were lepers. Many recent measures, such as not hiring smokers, not letting them rent apartment and so on smacks of acute discrimination that reminds you of discrimination by race, gender or nationality. It is amazing that contemporary anti-smoking zealots do not seem to find anything wrong with this.

Smoking is a luxury.

Yes, I agree. Judging by the retail price of an ordinary cigarette pack, I see that smoking is becoming a luxury indeed… as are many types of food… and rental apartments… education… medical care… transportation… and so on… Even though tobacco itself is a simple plant that can be cultivated in your backyard, it is becoming dearer than gold. And so it should be, or so They say.

You had better pay for your vices with hard cash. Perhaps it makes a lot of sense (employing a certain type of moral) to turn an obstinate smoker into scapegoat by exploiting his need to sustain a habit. I wonder why no other luxury items are taxed extra? Shall we tax Mercedes owners, Rolex owners, caviar eaters, property owners and so on extra?

Tobacco is a drug.

After reading article after article, you would come to conclusion that tobacco truly is the blood sister (or brother) of heroin. There is a tiny inconsistency in this message though. Well, you have probably heard of periodical bombings of coca plantations in Columbia but have you ever heard of any recent bombing of a ‘Phillip Morris’ plant? I did not.

Please try to understand me. I will say it repeatedly: smoking is not good for you. What perplexes me, however, is this: why such an aggressive campaign all of a sudden? Keep in mind that we’re not talking about any recently developed synthetic drug, we’re talking about a plant of questionable, or not so questionable properties that has been around since the ‘discovery’ of America by Columbus. So why all this sudden hysteria, which is carried out at the expense of more pressing problems, such as poverty, crime, wars, etc.

It seems to me that the ‘Phillip Morris’ behemoth is alive and well, except perhaps it decided to undertake another truly brilliant marketing venture this time – namely to go ‘alternative’ or go ‘Underground’ to give tobacco a status of illegality, or barely legal substance.

If you think of it, it is a smart move indeed. It means unleashing prices and creating a flair of ‘forbidden pleasure’, and subsequently making tobacco look more attractive than ever - think of alcohol prohibition in the US during the Roaring Twenties and how it gave birth to the infamous Italian mafia. Did it prevent people from drinking? Hell, no! I am sure it doubled it. There's no legal responsibility either, since we’re talking about an illegal drug to begin with.

Of course, it makes perfect sense. Everybody knows by now that drug sales are the most lucrative business (perhaps equal to, if not better than armaments). Sure! Turn public opinion against tobacco, force tobacco sales underground and push it at triple prices to all the disgruntled people along with cocaine, heroin, etc.

And who says that the behemoth is stupid animal?

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Zorbas2008-03-02 23:02:01
Spot on dude!

"Non-smokers should not be allowed to use products that were invented by smokers."
-Joe Strummer

p.s. I am trying to quit. I know what it does to me and I can feel it. Though somehow I know inside me, in a way that I often fail to explain, that people who smoke are better than the ones who don't. :)

Asa2008-03-03 08:24:12
Great article on an old subject. You made me consider taking up smoking!

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