Smoking – The Essence of Capitalism

I’m watching the suave, dapper figure of Martin Broughton, Chairman of British American Tobacco (BAT). He’s speaking on The Money Programme, covering the resurgence of the tobacco industry. His smooth, plummy tones perfectly suit a top gangster, someone who’s helped addict millions of people to the most harmful drug in the world. Capone and Siegel would be envious of this man’s calm cheeriness, chatting happily about how efficiently he peddles death, disease and despair. He’s a stone killer.

An industry analyst was on earlier, reporting that investing in these killer companies is always a winning move. He went so far as to say it’s difficult to ever lose money. Unaffected by the dot com bust and general tech-based shakiness, shares in companies like BAT have gone from strength to strength.

But this is concurrent with many Western countries bringing in harsher anti-smoking legislation. New York has recently outlawed smoking in public, which of course includes the city’s bars. Smokers, feeling ever more tightly squeezed, have formed their own reactionary group, Ban The Can, to have the law repealed. Their posters look very glossy and well-designed… I wonder who’s funding them?

Earlier, the programme showed a group of smokers huddled outside a bar, bitching in that logic-challenged way that junkies do:

“What happened to being a free country? Where’s my freedom to smoke?”
Where’s my freedom to not inhale your carcinogens, you selfish moron?

The “freedom to smoke” argument is the most asinine argument of all. This is equivalent to a thug saying, “I love hitting people! Why are they trying to outlaw me hitting people! Where’s my freedom to punch? I thought I lived in America not some goddamn commie pinko fag country?”

Get this through your microbrains, smoking advocates: your cigarette smoke is a proven carcinogen, smoke if you want to but keep it away from me. I have no problem whatsoever with smoking as a personal activity. In fact, I oppose any move towards prohibition of tobacco or alcohol. As far as I’m concerned, smokers can smoke themselves to black lung hell in the privacy of their own homes, it’s their own bodies. But when they damage my health because they’re feeding their ridiculous addiction, that’s a morally indefensible action.

“They’re persecuting us, we’re like a persecuted minority!”
Oh yeah – cos people are born smoking, aren’t they, the same as being born black or disabled? They have no control over starting to smoke, it was a totally involuntary action. Please…

If smokers think an action being outlawed is equivalent to racism, sexism or homophobia then that only displays the low level of their discourse. A smoker can sit in a no-smoking section of a restaurant with absolutely no problem. They won’t get beaten to death by cops or bombed by the Klan. The person is not being barred from anywhere. However, if they choose to start injuring their fellow diners with the fumes from their foul cancer sticks, then they should be ejected. Their smoking is exactly the same as if a patron started stabbing other diners in the arm with their knife. I wait to be corrected on this by the ‘Freedom To Stab’ pressure group, sponsored by cutlery manufacturers…

I admit this rant is personally motivated. Being a musician and DJ, I’ve been gigging in smoky clubs and pubs since 1982. That’s twenty-one years of inhaling other people’s shitty smoke. Twenty-one years of my lungs being damaged for no reason other than the selfishness of a socially and legally accepted group of drug addicts. I know this will have affected my health. Last week, I had my first asthma attack and I now have an inhaler.

Thank you smokers, you absolute cunts.

What makes people think they have the right to do exactly as they please, regardless of other people? To get drunk and then drive home, not caring whose lives they take? To smoke in public spaces, spreading their killer fumes far and wide, totally unconcerned for the effect on others? In other words, what makes people into model capitalists? Fuck you – I want to do this! Like Britney Spears lighting up in that non-smoking club, they believe the entire fucking world revolves around them.

Smoking is the nipple of capitalism. People get hooked by the fake dangerousness of being a child smoker. They get seduced into the notion of rebellion through consumption, liberation through buying shit. And not just any shit – this is stuff that’ll rot your lungs, explode your heart and whittle your body away as it blocks your blood vessels.

Smoking – once you’ve swallowed that huge, smelly, capitalist turd, you’ll swallow any shit. You’ll do any kind of menial labour to support the habits you’ve cultivated, to support your “lifestyle”, your designer labels, designer trainers, designer drinks, designer cigarettes. Your stupid fucking mullet. Why do you consume these things? Because everyone does! Who wants to be a weirdo, eh?

Smoking is the triumph of capitalism. It is the pinnacle of marketing, the acme of advertising. Here we have a product that gives you cancer, costs a ton and is also taxed to hell. And yet, smokers have been so brainwashed that they still think it’s a mark of coolness, makes them different and dangerous. They’ll scrabble the money together to satisfy their habit, to feed the monster that’s going to eat their lungs and leave them dying early, wracked in agony.

Cool? No, it’s a huge, flaming sign that you’re a dimwit. You’re paying a huge amount to buy a product that’s killing you.

Martin Broughton is immensely excited because his company’s profits are soaring. So what if smoking is under attack in the West? He’s got the fertile vistas of China ahead of him. He’s calmly confident that as China’s stillborn socialism fractures into capitalism, the Western tobacco companies will move in, just as they did when the USSR collapsed.

This is the essence of capitalism: it doesn’t care about anything but profit. Arms companies point at the jobs that would be lost if restrictive arms treaties were to be passed. Who cares about the children blown to bits by their products – they’ve got to maintain their profits! Tobacco companies target developing countries with huge advertising and marketing campaigns, selling smoking as a sophisticated, glamorous Western activity (ironic, since it’s rightly becoming anathema in the West). Who cares about the health of the people they bombard with their deceptive marketing – profit uber alles!

I’m in a split state of mind: half of me hates smokers for the injury they do me everytime I go out. I was out at a club last night and my eyes were stinging from the smoke, I left early it was so bad. The other half of me pities smokers.

They are addicts, to an immensely, powerfully addictive drug. Yes, they have some personal responsibility but most smokers were hooked as teens or even younger. The blame here has to rest with the tobacco companies and the way they circumvent anti-advertising laws, partially through sports sponsorship. They ensure that children are fully “brand-aware”, to use the language that the soulless marketing droids prefer.

Once you’re an addict, you’ll protect your habit. You’ll jump through amazingly illogical hoops to defend your irrational behaviour. You’ll try to make it sound like a shining beacon of maverick selfhood, a totem of energised individuality. Alcoholics romanticise pissing blood and poisoning their livers. Smokers pretend to find cancer and pain funny – it’s us dull non-smokers who don’t get the joke. They laugh at the ever-growing warnings on the packets. But when the cancer finally hits them then, like Bill Hicks, they’re not laughing.

Going beyond the macro, into the micro – why do informed, educated adults continue to smoke? This isn’t aimed at people who’ve tried to quit and physically couldn’t. I believe there should be greater government funding and resources to help nicotine addicts. It would undoubtedly save the NHS money in the long run, prevention being hugely cheaper than cure. After all, who expects a heroin addict to just quit one day, with no help whatsoever?

It’s the smokers who never try to quit who puzzle me. Well, till I had the following thought…

Smoking is a gross form of self-harm. Think of the most troubled and abandoned self-harming person you’ve ever known. Someone you worried about deeply. Well, the average smoker is a thousand times more self-harming than that person. I’m not belittling cuts on the arms and legs: anyone doing that shit to themselves needs professional care and understanding. But, eventually, with that kind of help, those cuts will heal and no long-term physical health damage will be done. That person can go on to live a long and happy life, provided people take them seriously and help them when they need it.

But the self-harming smoker? Well, no-one believes there’s a problem there in the first place. So nothing is done. But I maintain that if you’re determinedly trying to give yourself cancer, there must be something going on inside you, you must have some kind of serious self-esteem issue. Why else would you carry on sucking down that filth if you know what it’s doing to you?

I repeat, addicts need help and treatment. If we think heroin and cocaine addicts are worthy of serious treatment, why aren’t smokers? At the same time, I don’t believe a smack addict has the moral right to mug me to feed his habit, just as I don’t believe a nicotine addict has the right to assault me with his smoke because he can’t quit. I don’t want to get cancer because of his poor judgement.

Smoking and drinking are the two most important drugs to refuse and resist. The other ones, weed, E, meth, LSD, etcetera are bad but they’re inconsequential compared to the huge user base for the first two. Let me explain why I think they’re the most pernicious.

We’re all tied to capitalism. Socialism in one person is as impossible as Stalin’s socialism in one country. We have to live, we need food, water, shelter. To get these, we have to sell our labour, we’re chained.

But it seems absurd to manufacture extra links for your chains.

Say you drink two or three pints a day, lots more at weekends. Let’s make that £7 a day. And you smoke 40+ a day, that’s, say £8. That’s £15 a day you spend on killing yourself. £105 a week you spend on shortening your life and making it as full of ill-health and pain as possible. £1260 a year to ensure a miserable old age (or no old age at all).

If you have these spending habits, you can’t afford to be picky. You’ll set yourself lower standards for work because you need the money so much. These addictions are monkeys on your back, their claws are sunk into your flesh and emptying your wallet. You’re hooked on being hooked. You’re an addict to addiction. You’re the perfect worker, an obedient, fearful cog in the machine.

Every weekend you’ll get pissed/stoned and rail impotently at your work and your bosses, whilst smoking even more and spending even more of your hard-earned wage-slave scratchings on pointless shit. You’ll have, as Martin Gore put it, “a black celebration, to celebrate the fact that we’ve seen the back of another black day.”

You’ll suck down those cigarettes, you need them so badly, you’ll guzzle that soma, sucking the bottle dry. You’ll shout at the sky, you’ll slamdance to Rage Against The Machine, venting your frustration at your shitty job and tiny life.

But on Monday morning you’ll be back at work. Docile, obedient. Like a junkie waiting for his man.

(Please click here for more information about BAT’s un-ethical practices)