Tuesday, 27 November 2012

My Anti-Smoking Rant 2007 - 2012

Just now, as I was sitting here in front of my computer I happened to look up and outside of my house on the footpath in front, I saw a young girl - she looked all of about 13 maybe - lighting a cigarette. It made me shudder.

It is quite some time since I had an anti-tobacco rant but because I saw her, and because right now I am in process of deleting all my remaining Multiply posts I offer edited versions of past essays with update.


I started smoking when I was sixteen. I had already left school for a year, I had a 'steady' boyfriend and all my friends smoked, my boyfriend smoked, his friends smoked, my parents smoked; in fact it seemed like everyone around me had fags hanging out their mouths except me. So it wasn't that I especially needed to smoke or even that anybody pressured me to smoke, it was just that I felt like such an idiot back then, not smoking.

I was addicted from the first cigarette.

The book, Allen Carr's Easy Way to Stop Smoking is not the flashest written book by a long shot. It is not even overlong. In quite simple terms Allen Carr discusses smoking as an addiction, how this particular addiction works to keep the smoker under control so that they keep on smoking, and then by following Allen Carr's instructions, how the smoker can stop smoking successfully.

Allen Carr himself was a smoker, smoking for over thirty years and smoking his way through up to one hundred cigarettes a day, an amount which even I can self-righteously find incredible, but when, as a smoker, you read his story and his instructions for stopping smoking and know that if he can do it you can do it too, the whole idea becomes at least credible to you. This is not some posh doctor pontificating from some high-up pedestal, telling you, the smoker, how bad you should feel about yourself. This is another human being just like you, who has fought the same demons that you are now girding yourself to fight and reaching out a hand to show you how. That's part of why the book works.

Smokers are not actually idiots, (well maybe some are, but most aren't). They all know, even if they won't admit it, that smoking is expensive and unhealthy. Most wish they had never started. Smoking is a drug addiction just like alcohol addiction or heroin addiction. Being addicted means that a substance is controlling you and your behaviour. It means that no matter how you run your budget the biggest priority of a smoker is always making sure that there is enough money to run the addiction, even at the expense of your family and the people you love. In this respect a smoking addiction is no different from any other addiction. It still amazes me how much more money I have to spend on basic things now that I should have been able to buy all along. I am feel so much richer.

Actually it still amazes me that I am not still smoking too, and the fact that I am not smoking is down to this book by Allen Carr. "The object of the book" wrote Carr, "is to get you into the frame of mind in which, instead of the normal method of stopping whereby you start off with the feeling that you are climbing Mount Everest and spend the next few days craving a cigarette and envying other smokers, you start off right away with a feeling of elation, as if you had been cured of a terrible disease."

"If you follow my instructions, you will be happy to be a non-smoker for the rest of your life" reads the blurb on the back of my copy of the book. It's true too. I have been a non-smoker after reading this book since the 2nd of February 2007 and I do not feel 'deprived". He does indeed offer a unique method without scare tactics which focuses on removing the psychological "need" to smoke.

There is a political side to all of this.

Most support structures around now, (government-run or otherwise), that exist to encourage people to not smoke any more, focus on supporting a smoker to "give up" the terrible vice. They wind up subsidising the nicotine drug in another form such as nicotine patches or gum.  Allen Carr argues that this is why they have such a low success rate. A smoker "giving up smoking" in this manner only ends up feeling "deprived". Moreover, the unwitting smoker who may not only be failing to 'give up' smoking is also in danger of becoming addicted to wearing a nicotine patch or chewing on the nicotine gum during their working hours. In effect they may become doubly addicted.

All this may well raise some interesting thoughts about the politics of governments and corporates and the way in which pharmaceutical companies are gradually wresting the nicotine industry from the tobacco companies in western countries at least. Allen Carr touched on these ideas in the book as well and on the website.

So nicotine doesn't disappear from the shelves. You just find it on different shelves.


Imagine selling a product where you know every user will eventually die sooner than they would have otherwise because they use your product. And in the nature of Capitalism you are working to expand your customer base and 'grow' your company and your profits. How do they sleep at night?

In the most appalling acts of cynicism and greed for profits above all else, these companies like British American Tobacco now target young kids in African and Asian countries. In these countries the number of smoking-related deaths are expected to double in the next twenty years. The tobacco companies want the young ones addicted because they will take longer to die from smoking related diseases than older people so they will be customers longer. Its evil.

Tobacco exacerbates poverty. The World Health Organisation (WHO) tells us that “tobacco and poverty are inextricably linked. Many studies have shown that in the poorest households in some low-income countries as much as 10%, (and the rest - in some households it will be a much higher percentage, depending on the price of the cigarettes and tobacco in each country), of total household expenditure is on tobacco [and therefore] there is less money to spend on basic items such as food, education and health care. In addition to its direct health effects, tobacco leads to malnutrition, increased health care costs and premature death. It also contributes to a higher illiteracy rate, since money that could have been used for education is spent on tobacco instead.”

Even more insidiously tobacco is also contributing to world hunger because it diverts prime land away from food production. Land that has been destroyed or degraded to grow tobacco has effects on nearby farms too, decreasing even more food production. As more forests are cleared to make way for more tobacco plantations then the soil protection those forests provided is lost and the soil is more likely to be washed away in heavy rains. This leads to more soil degradation and failing yields. Large amounts of wood are used to cure tobacco leaves and tobacco uses up more water, and has more pesticides applied to it, further affecting water supplies. The hard cash earned from this “foreign investment” is offset by the costs in social and public health and the environment. In effect, profits are privatized; costs are socialised. They make the money, the rest of us throughout the world pay the costs.


For Hone Harawira, now leader of the Mana Party here in Aotearoa, Tobacco Production and Marketing is a Colonisation issue. In a speech he made in 2006 he said:

 "Liberals will say though that smoking is about Maori people making choices. But I say no. HELL NO!!! Smoking is a part of colonisation. Tobacco has had its day in America and Europe, and now they are looking for other places to conquer; places like Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and now China. They're colonising places even America can't get into. And smoking ain't a choice; it's a disease. And just like the flu came with colonisation, so did tobacco. In fact, at the launch of the 2001 Maori Quit campaign, even the Prime Minister admitted that smoking came with the coloniser.

Addiction to cigarettes is also part of institutional racism, because tobacco companies use their structures, their policies and their practices to oppress our people in the same way as government agencies have. These companies are owned by white people driven by a lust for profit. They have no conscience about selling a product that kills our people, and in case you don't believe me, here's a quote from a Tobacco Company Executive who said: "We don't smoke this shit - we sell it. We reserve the right to smoke it, to the young, the poor, the black and the stupid."

Hone pointed out that there is untold money spent on debating and on legislating the health warnings on cigarette packets, and then restrictions on points of sale, and then on smoke-free workplaces, and then smoke-free bars. Hundred and thousands of hours and millions of dollars are being poured into smoking cessation programmes as well. What this has done is to simply create one industry to manage another.

Which is so true. Back to Allen Carr who argued that instead of nicotine addiction decreasing through all those smoking cessation programmes what was actually happening was that pharmaceutical corporations were taking over control of the nicotine substance from the tobacco companies. Probably the same rich guys have money in both. Allen Carr stated:  "Many of those who championed NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) as an aid to quitting are now backtracking. Nicotine, they argue, should now be administered to addicts, not as a means of quitting the drug, but merely as a “safer alternative” to smoking. So, the objective of nicotine treatment is soon to become a long term (in other words lifelong) maintenance programme with a variety of nicotine products provided for addicts to use for the rest of their lives."

Thereby keeping those companies in the money forever. Oh goody.

Nicotine is a poison. No matter how you wrap it up, no matter how pretty the package, it is still a poison. All they are talking about here is making a more socially acceptable form of a drug so that non-smokers won't be bothered by cigarette smoke. I cannot see any other benefit.


In Aotearoa/New Zealand the current government has agreed in principle to introduce a plain packaging regime for tobacco, subject to the outcome of  a consultation process. The consultation process closed at 5pm, 5th of October 2012.

The Ministry of Health is now analysing the submissions and working with other government departments including Treasury, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to prepare a report back to Cabinet before the end of the year. A summary of the submissions will be placed on the website of the Ministry of Health following the decision of the Cabinet. There were 292 individual submissions. In addition more than 20,000 people and organisations expressed a view on the proposal through pre-printed postcards, letters, and petitions.

Unsurprisingly British American Tobacco aren't happy. They argue that plain packaging is an infringement of their intellectual property rights. “Packaging is an important element of any company’s intellectual property. A government prohibition on a company’s right to use their own intellectual property constitutes property removal and sets a disturbing precedent for businesses throughout New Zealand. “If government is prepared to do this today, are the next logical steps to force alcohol, fast food, salty or sugary products into plain packs as well?” said Susan Jones, BATNZ’s Head of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs.

Frankly, Susan, I don't give a damn. 


  1. I need to come back to this post when I'm not so fatigued, I could feel my attention wandering partly from the attitude "yeah yeah I've heard this all before"...what else is smoking responsible for? probably global warming and really bad kebabs

    1. lol, actually you probably have heard all this before (or most of it) - on Multiply. It was how I decided to deal with these old posts but redo them a bit - this is a 3 in 1 job with an added extra bit.

  2. I smoked for 30 years, gave it up. As you say, I didn't give up nicotine for quite awhile because I used the nicotine gum. But now I use neither. People in the US are forever trashing poor people who use food stamps and smoke. They don't understand what a powerful addiction it is. More than alcohol or cocaine or even heroin. I'll have to look up Allen Carr to see if I can get a hint as to what he is offering. I think it would be better if smokers had to buy all one kind of cigarette, no packaging except plain white, no Camel or whatever they have on packs now. I remember when teachers could smoke in their classrooms after the kids had left for the day. That stands my hair on end.

    1. I think like you, that plain pack will make smoking a lot more boring for beginner smokers and also reveal it for the drug it is. British American Tobacco plainly agree which is why they are fighting the scenario.

      When I had my first child we had our packs of smokes and ashtrays on the bedside locker beside our beds in the hospital ward and smoked there. My kids find that utterly incredible and actually so do I now.

  3. I agree with you 100 percent Iri Ani. Smoking is not a choice it's a disease and the tobacco people and Big Pharma are raking in the profits like the drug dealers that they are!

    1. Absolutely they are and some of us are the dupes. I certainly was. I totally recommend the Allen Carr book, if you know anyone still smoking, there are also DVD's and a website, and in the US, probably seminars. The book is the cheapest way to go.

      It took two to three days for me to get through the physical withdrawal part of stopping smoking, a process which would be actually elongated I think, for people using nicotine patches etc. After that it was all about the headspace. What the book did for me was give me the belief that I could succeed and the will to do it.