A unique guide to stop smoking. Light Me Up, Strike Me Down is a blog about smoking and my life with and without cigarettes, the tobacco industry and the social experiment Smoke Swap.
I’m not a smoker. I’m not an anti smoker. Technically I’m an ex-smoker. I have never tried to stop anyone from smoking before in my life and I’ve been around smokers all my life. My Father has been a heavy smoker since the age of 13 (he’s now 69) and both my younger brothers smoke. I wish they didn’t but that next cigarette… you light it up or you don’t, it’s your choice.
I say this because I believe if you want to stop smoking, it has to come from your own decision to quit smoking. No outside pressure can come to bare from a non smoker that will help you live a smoke free life. The odds are simply stacked against this, or are they?
Okay I’ve got a confession to make! I’m a non-smoker and a hypocrite. I worked in the tobacco industry, firstly as a freelance Event Manager and then in Marketing. I sold my soul to the devil and worked with one of the biggest brands in the world, Marlboro. I was commonly called ‘The pimp for the angels of death’ (Marlboro Girls) and ‘the biggest drug dealer in London’. Now how does a nice lower middle class boy like me find himself in this position?
I believe it’s all down to the roads we choose to travel upon and the choices we make. However, it’s easy to get caught up with the illusion of the pursuit of happiness. Billions of pounds are spent annually on advertisements reinforcing false messages that you need this or that to live a full and happy life. No more so than the tobacco industry who have orchestrated the biggest con in history.
I took the money. I lived the life of event managing anything the brand put it’s name too. Edinburgh Comedy Festival, Download, Isle of Wight Festival, Reading/Leeds, V, Southport Dance Weekenders, 10 Magazine etcetera. I could go home with anecdotes of this or that celebrity or rock star I’d seen or ran into back stage. It all sounds so glamorous now, it was bloody hard work at the time. I was a very small cog in a very large machine and what I did all seemed distant and removed from what the end result aimed to achieve… selling cigarettes. After all, I rarely had a packet of cigarettes in my hand.
Essentially this project is a blog of two halves. The first half will cover my role in the tobacco industry. It will include my research on a wide number of topics associated with the tobacco industry, some personal, some anecdotal but mostly astounding. The blog will explain the history of the cigarette in advertising, dark marketing, sonic branding, use in movies and television and the myth of cool.
We’ll also list the ingredients of a cigarette and explain how, if someone took the new invention of a cigarette to market today it would fail all consumer and health and safety tests. It will reveal the true cost of a pack of cigarettes. Starting with the production and farming methods employed in the developing world and the toll pesticides have not only on humans, but the local and world environment. It will expose the issues of tobacco crops replacing food crops and their impact on the local communities.
We follow the path of these practices by way of dark marketing techniques and explain how figureheads of the Make Poverty History campaign including U2’s Bono, and Coldplay’s Chris Martin are unwittingly sponsored by big tobacco.
The blog will uncover the astounding litter issue that cigarette butts have on our local environment. It is estimated that 4.5 trillion butts are on westernized streets and since the ban in England the number has risen by 40 percent accounting for 40 percent of all litter at a cost to the tax payer of £200 million. The book will explain why there are no ‘Do Not Litter’ slogans on cigarette packs and pose the question, ‘why don’t the cigarette industry contribute to the clean up?’
The second half will be a comprehensive diary about a filmed experiment Katie Piper and I undertook called Smoke Swap.
At the time of filming Katie Piper was a 24 year old model and television presenter who smoked ten cigarettes a day for ten years. I am a thirty nine year old healthy living non-smoker. The production of Smoke Swap spanned over six weeks. For the first three weeks I must have conversed with every doctor, cardio physician and expert professor in London.
Non of these professionals would commit to the project on ethical, legal and moral grounds. Weeks four and five saw Katie and I carrying out the experiment. This basically involved Katie going ‘cold turkey’ and I taking on her ten cigarettes a day habit while looking for any positives I could bring to my life from smoking.
It was shot in London UK, Barcelona Spain and Mugello Italy. Dr. Peter Mace from BUPA Wellmen, Dr.Sunny Kaul and Dr. Ranak from St Thomas’s Hospital, London agreed to participate in the final week of filming. In week six we delivered the footage to Current TV who commissioned this piece after we shot it. This was done for legal reasons i.e. they don’t want me to sue them thirty years down the line for making me smoke if I developed cancer. They then went on to edit it down into a six minute film that was broadcast to coincide with the 1st July Smoking in Public Places ban.
My production company, IMP Film Co. retained all the rights and are cutting it into a series of short viral films for the inclusion in this blog.
I believe this blog is different to other blogs about smoking and the tobacco industry because we have two fantastic opposing stories in the diary half that to my knowledge hasn’t been done before.
Anyone looking for inspiration to stop smoking can draw a lot from both and identify with the central characters and their opposing journeys. For the person who is trying to quit smoking it also has truly astounding facts and insider prospective that they can armor themselves with to win any argument against a pro-smoker.
I’m writing this blog because I want to bring human interest stories, alarming facts and truly amazing figures to the attention of young people who feel under pressure by their peers to start smoking.
I want them to be inspired by Katie’s story from being a pro smoker to an anti smoker and remind people what it was like to smoke their first cigarette and how quickly you can get used to the habit. I want to illustrate to the reader the dark marketing techniques, out right lies and corrupt politics the tobacco companies have used to form their publics opinions. I believe once you have the facts in front of you, you can then make an informed decision, and take action based on that decision.
In the past, I was responsible for facilitating and manipulating the choices people made to smoke like it or not. I certainly made it easier for them. Part of me wants to write this blog to readdress the balance. If one person ceases or stops smoking after having read the blog, then I would have succeeded in making our environment a fractionally better place to live.
I would love to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to leave a comment and have a beautiful day.
Perry ; )