People always want to know why I smoke Vogue cigarettes. When faced with a condescendingly phrased question to that effect, I seldom answer it seriously. There is too much to say, too much that most people wouldn’t seriously consider that would have to go into an explication of the issue. However, I’m going to suspend that trend for a moment and give a few thoughts on the issue.
First, we should look at the social perception of addiction. It is commonly thought that social consensus is a somewhat accurate divider between less harmful addictions and more harmful ones. Using this logic, we can see why addiction to heroin is a deal-breaker in many friendships while being a blatant Facebook addict is a laughing matter.
I would argue that this distinction essentially constitutes a false dichotomy. Society’s fascination with partially hydrogenated oil and high-fructose corn syrup (think Taco Bell and Rockstar Energy Drink) is no less harmful than its flirting with tobacco. Are unprecedented epidemic-level outbreaks of obesity and diabetes negligible? Are their causes, like fourth-mealin’ it nightly and Amp-ing up before class, so laughable? Not by health standards.
We are similarly engaged in a full-scale cultural addiction to transport by means of fossil fuel consumption. How many more people would still be alive if there were no car accidents? In a land where we can grow our food locally and participate in local activities, what is the motivation for owning and operating cars, trucks and transport ships in the first place? Is it convenience — a large-scale fumbling for an elusive sense of control?
It may be that health standards and mortality rates are not the final criteria for the social acceptance of a practice, but separations between “good” and “bad” addictions are by no means arbitrary. They are determined by societal consent, and in a neocapitalist society, consent is bought and sold on an individual basis (direct advertising) and on a large-scale collective level.
Government propaganda campaigns invoke “big tobacco,” but I haven’t heard anything about “big fast food” or “big caffeine.” As a result, consent is being produced, assembled and shipped with unprecedented freedom. The difference between a “good” addiction and a “bad” one might be just a few hundred thousand dollars spent correctly.
What is happening here? What have we created? A universe of perceived ideals fueled and impassioned by perceived needs. Large-scale addiction.
The western man needs to drive and drive fast in a car he often can’t afford to prove he is a sexually attractive entity. The western woman needs clothes with a brand on them to prove that she can be attractive too.
Smoking — it’s not just for dummies
That brings us back to cigarettes. Most of the criticism directed toward people who smoke tobacco could also be applied to proponents and supporters of many other areas of culture. Where are the anti-sugar groups? Just because the government spends millions discouraging smoking doesn’t make it any more dangerous of an addiction than drinking soda or driving a car.
Although many will make the case that no addiction is a good thing, I don’t believe we can begin to deal with the complexity and variety of our society’s addictions without first examining our internal inflation of the self as an entity and subsequent feeling of the loss of control. Maybe addiction is both a grasp for that sense of control and an expression of the futility of that grasping motion.
As long as we remain certain that real truth comes from within, we will remain in self-perpetuated cycles of progressively more damaging “self-affirmations.” But honestly, what else is there?