Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How to Be a Tobacco Industry Apologist

“Boo hoo, tobacco causes suffering and premature death,” sack cloth wearing hippies shriek. “Government is merely enforcing the will of the people by legislating against these death merchants,” they hand wring. “If Government knew then what it knows now it would never have been a legal product,” they high-pitch warble while playing hacky sack.

Nobody likes a hippy, so here’s a guide on how to be an apologist for the tobacco industry.

Let’s face it, trying to put together an argument for tobacco is hard work, so don’t bother. Slippery slope your argument into easy street and make connections that don’t exist so you can argue for that instead. Confused? Don’t be!

Take the lead from Family First – the idea of two adults of the same sex being able to get married might not bother the average reasonable person, but the idea of incestuous poly marriages just might. Link the two things and before you know it you’ll have someone who is pro marriage equality trying to defend the concept of an unholy cousin-brother-sister alliance turning up at a church doorstep demanding for the local priest to de-basterdise their brood of blobby web-fingered children.

So don’t be silly enough to try and argue for tobacco, instead drag wine or fast food in to it and make it about that instead. If you eat a burger or consume a glass of wine as recommended there is no undue health effects, in fact you might even get some vitamins and antioxidants. If you consume tobacco as intended there is a high probability that you will get sick and die prematurely. BUT if someone ate a lot of burgers and drank a lot of wine there would be a chance of health problems, so link them, now skip the part about tobacco, and make this an argument about people trying to stop you enjoying a glass of vino and wanting to run into a children’s birthday party and stab Ronald McDonald in the head. How is THAT reasonable?

If you legislate for marriage equality you are legislating for poly-incest web-fingered babies. If you legislate against tobacco you are legislating against children’s clowns and your god given right to enjoy a frosty beer on a hot summers day. What a compelling argument! Yay, you’ve won!
On a side-note if someone tries to do the opposite and equate tobacco with addictive substances such as heroin or cocaine be incredibly indignant and say that they’re nothing alike and they’re trying to derail the argument. That should put them in their place.

Also talk about rights a lot. People like those. Damn it, as an adult you have the right to be able to smoke and make informed decisions! See what I did there? I made this not about passing legislation so that brandings can’t be displayed, I’m making this now about important information being withheld from you and rights, the rights of an industry that purposely harms it’s users, to keep profiting from it, and what’s more important than that? The right not to be harmed by a product that kills half its users? I don’t remember seeing that in the Bill of Rights, you human loving, corporate hating, weirdo! Also try and make it sound like it’s not just branding being removed, but somehow imply that government is trying to ban the sale of it, or that smokers will no longer be able to remember what brand of cigarettes they smoke because of artery damage in their brai…no, wait, skip that bit.

And the tobacco industry has a right to use its branding. It’s spent money and research on specific colours and fonts to create an image for people to want to identify with so that they’ll become loyal. And with all those addictive chemicals thrown in they have the potential to be pretty damn loyal – high five!

Who are those adults making these informed decisions? Well since most smokers don’t jump brands, the industry is worried about their bottom line when it comes to attracting new smokers. After all they’ve spent a lot of energy equating smoking cigarettes with being aloof, cool, sophisticated and rebellious – and coincidentally enough the group that this would most appeal to is the group that are the ones that start smoking in the first place – teenagers.

Most smokers are around 14 when they first started smoking, and knowing this (hey, they’re super child friendly, from hiring policies to advertising ones) and  it’s important these kids are kept informed as to whether they want to be seen as a sophisticated gold pack smoking Benson and Hedges customer, or a happy go-lucky Holiday smoker. With plain packaging cigarettes will have their veneer stripped away and will only be seen as what they actually are – a container filled with pieces of paper which has had plant material and chemicals rolled in to it. And with reminders of what the product actually does to you (tumours, black lungs, death, despair, misery) teenagers who otherwise think they’re immortal, and whose brains aren’t fully formed yet for the best decision making, might have another psychological reason to take up smoking removed. Which would certainly be bad for tobacco’s right to make a multi-billion dollar profits from their pre-mature deaths, which we can all agree would be wrong.

So to sum up: pretend that the argument you are making is for something else entirely, something that’s easier to argue for. Talk about rights and freedom to try and give yourself a moral platform to speak from. Because most users tend to be the most vulnerable in society, if you’re going to be a spokesperson for tobacco try to be a white male of privilege to add balance. And remember, never, ever acknowledge the reality of what the tobacco industry is or that it knowingly sells an addictive substance that maims and kills its users, because people might become repulsed by that and think that you’re an amoral douchebag who smells funny.

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