Monday, January 02, 2006

How tobacco companies are like black people

When the white folks from way way back brought those dark-skinned people from Africa to toil in their fields in the quaint practice we now refer to as slavery, there were some that were not satisfied by merely having unlimited control over another human being's life. These people felt the need to derive some more benefits out of their master-slave relationship, some more mental satisfaction that could be milked out of their position of power. And so, they coined the term "nigger" in order to demean the slave, and thus, get that rush of power one feels when one believes one is superior to one's fellow human.

Years went by and the slaves were finally freed. But the derogatory term "nigger" still lived on. But then the African American community, in a masterful stroke of genius, turned the tables on the unwitting white racist populace by adapting the term "nigger" for their own use. Thus, by calling each other "niggers", blacks neutralized the demeaning effect of the word, at the same time, saying "up yours" to those white folks who would still wish to indulge in it's usage. Now, the term "nigger", when used amongst the black community, signifies the coolness and hipness of being African American, by basically taking the detested word, bitchslapping all the racism out of it and injecting into it that aura of being the shiznit.

Tobacco companies have utilized a similar tactic with respect to the surgeon general's statutory warning about all the health risks that come with the use of tobacco products. There was a time when the warning on cigarette packs was so tiny, one had to look for it. Then, the government, probably realizing that people who smoke cigarettes would probably require a bigger font size to comprehend the warning, made it mandatory for it to be more legible. Big Tobacco was nonplussed. Fuck, they said, if we tell people our products kill em, wouldn't they stop buying our products? It was a legitimate concern.

And then, Big Tobacco remembered the deniggerification of "nigger" that had been accomplished by black people. And they said, hell, you know what, we could probably use the same strategy here. We need to make dying from our products cool. We need to make it macho. We need to make sooty tarred lungs the new look for men. We need to do to bloody sputum what Britney Spears did to being trailer park trash. The in-thing.

And so, tobacco companies went to town on their statutory warnings. Nowadays, when you see an ad for cigarettes, you don't even remember the brandname, what you do remember is the warning, which often takes up the entire ad space in big, bold letters. Camel : Cigarette Smoking causes irreparable damage to your health. Fuck, irreparable, you say to yourself. That's just too fucking cool. I gotta get me some of those. Marlboro : Cigarette smoking will suck the life out of your lungs and leave you gasping for breath. Man oh man, you say, as your knees go weak, you feel faint and on the verge of an orgasm just from the sheer coolness of it all. Something so potentially murderous has just got to be experienced. Newport : Call a funeral home, you're already dead. Reading this would probably make you cram 10 cigarettes into your mouth at once.

And by the looks of it, I think it's working. I have a smoker friend in Canada, who, for reasons of privacy I will refrain from identifying, except for the fact that he owes me 350 US dollars. So this smoker friend tells me you know, cigarettes are actually good 'cause they remove the last 10 years from your life which would probably be pretty shitty years for you living-wise anyways. 'Cause, you know, due to all the adult diapers and loss of bowel control and shit like that.

But his statement was so naive, so fucking stupid that I felt like reaching in through the phone line, out through his receiver and slapping his face repeatedly. Smoking's not gonna relieve you of your final 10 years, shithead. Smoking will just make those final 10 years come 10 years earlier. You will still be crapping all over the place like a disaffected poodle, but you will be doing it at 50 instead of 60.

So you see, that's how tobacco companies have adopted a tactic previously used by African Americans against the N word and used it to make dying of lung cancer extremely cool. And boy oh boy, emphysema is just so fucking photogenic.

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