Today started of well. I’ve come up with a strategy to ensure I get my ten a day in. After every meal and every break I’ll have a cigarette. That should take me above half way. The other three or four cigarettes I can smoke at the end of the day to reward myself. If I’m going to complete this experiment successfully I will have to start thinking like a smoker and plan my waking hours around smoking. Of course if I was a smoker I would do this without thinking as it would be habitual.
I had breakfast early and had a cigarette immediately afterwards. I head back to my room and brush my teeth, pick up my bag and head to the garage to take the car out. On the short walk from the hotel to the garage I spark up my second cigarette of the day. I love the smell of four thousand burning carcinogenic substances in the morning. Not!
I get on site and some of the crew notice I’ve started smoking. I explain what and why I’m doing it. Some of them look at me with the look of ‘You stupid southern fuckin’ idiot’ on their faces (I inform them that I was actually born in the Midlands) while others are more than happy to offer me a cigarette, coach me on cool ways to smoke, teach me tricks with a lighter or tell me anecdotes about the three strike rule.
The Three Strike Rule
The three strike rule first appeared during the war. I’m not sure which war but I would assume it was World War I. Soldiers would congregate together and share tall tales about girls, nylons and chocolate. It’s blackout and a nazi sniper could be almost anywhere. A soldier pulls out a pack of ‘Luckies’ he won of an American GI in a game of cards and offers them around his comrades in arms. Soldier #1 strikes a light and because he’s British a polite offers soldier #2 a light first. The sniper sees the flicker of a flame and takes aim. Soldier #1 offers soldier #3 a light. The sniper steadies the shot and slowly sqeezes the trigger. Soldier #1 then lights his own cigarette and promptly hits the dirt as the sniper offloads a round in to his forehead. Back then no-one knew cigarettes could kill, but they were learning fast, hence the three strike rule.
Cigarettes kill more people than all the world wars combined. One person every five minutes dies from a smoking related disease.
A collegue came up to me backstage ‘I noticed you’re smoking, so can I blag a cigarette of you?’ ‘Yeah no problem’ I say offering him a B&H. ‘Oh, you’re alright, I’ll ask someone else for one’ he said‘ They taste like shit!’ Now I’m no connesier but they all taste like shit to me! A smokers’ sense of taste is seriously eroded because of their habit but it is comical how they debate the taste of one cigarette over another. Of course they are fooling themselves. And so started a debate about the various merits of one cigarette brand over another. It amazes me how passionate people can be about their cigarettes. How emotionally connected they are to their cigarettes. They identify themselves and others by the brand they smoke. An attack on their brand of cigarette is a personal attack on themselves or their Mothers such is the close relationship fostered between man and cigarette. Marlboro is the second biggest brand in the world (Pampers is the biggest apparently, not Coca-Cola as everyone presumes). So with over seventy years of advertising, brand positioning and marketing behind it most of the messages you take from that little box of twenty have been conveyed to you so many times you don’t even question them.
The Nazis had a very effective propaganda campaign in the 1930 and 40’s – take a simple message and repeat it many times. Eventually you don’t question it, you take it as gospel. This is exactly the same when it comes to building a brand such Marlboro Lights. I always say question everything. Nothing happens by accident and if there is money to be made prepare to ask many questions.
Cigarettes are broken down into two categories:
1) Virginia tobacco cigarettes
2) Blended tobacco cigarettes
If most cigarettes fall in to the two categories, why do smokers champion one brand over another? Well that’s down to marketing. I remember when I was at Philip Morris being told that Marlboro Lights sold more at the weekends than in the week. The reason behind this statement? People who would normally smoke a brand at of cheaper cost price and perception and would buy a packet of Marlboro Lights on a Friday night before heading out on the town. Along with their designer clothes, their mobile phone, lighter and their last fashion accessory a packet of cigarettes.
Of course we at Philip Morris spent a great deal of time and money positioning our brand in all the best and most aspirational bars, club, and parties in every city. The kind of clubs ordinary people can’t get passed the red rope. We sponsored exclusive and glamorous sports such as F1 were the average man in the street can’t afford a ticket. And sold the product exclusively at all the music festivals were all the great and the good of the rock n roll world would be. The people living the life we could only dream about.
So by buying a packet of Marlboro Lights at the weekend and putting them on the table with my bottle of over priced Czeck beer I’m saying to my friends and peers ‘Hey look at me! I belong to this elite club, I’m sophisticated, I’m cultured, I’m a modern man of the world. I’m in Monte Carlo and rubbing shoulders with Kate Moss and I can afford to buy this brand so look out ladies here I come!
The reality is I’m in a chain bar in Lincoln, my shirt is a fake designer label knock-off from the market, no-one has called me on my mobile all night and I’m topping my trendy bottle of beer up from a hip flask because I can’t afford to spend £6.00 on a pint of lager. I know this but the perception to others is different. Well until I get pissed and drop a kebab down the front of my shirt while walking home zig-zag style down the street it is.
SMOKES TODAY – 10 out of 10
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