Sex, Lies and Cigarettes

Sex, Lies and Cigarettes

2011, Drugs  -   24 Comments
Ratings: 7.03/10 from 69 users.

In the spring of 2010 video of a smoking baby went viral and became an international sensation. When the laughter stopped the world moved on. But there's much more in this story then one child's cigarette addiction. If you thought that public health battle against tobacco was over, think again.

This is the story of how smoking decline in the West has fueled Big Tobacco’s hunt for new consumers in some of the poorest countries on Earth. They're doing everything in their power to take the same product, the same deceptive marketing practices, and transport them around the world.

Vanguard goes undercover to hear how Big Tobacco talks behind closed doors, and they take to the streets to meet the small band of activists fighting for change in the country where the overwhelming message is loud and clear: cigarettes are cool, cigarettes are fun, and cigarettes are sexy. They set out on a journey to find the world's most famous smoker and along the way they found a global health crisis in the making.

In Times Square, in the heart of New York City, you'll find advertising for just about everything. But, there is one product that's conspicuously absent from the bright lights and flashy billboards. Cigarette advertising has been all but snuffed out in United States. A single pack of smokes will set you back a whopping $12. New York City is now the most expensive place in the country to buy cigarettes. That's due largely to a hefty sin tax imposed by both the city and the state in an attempt to strongly discourage consumers from smoking. A far-cry from the way things used to be. It wasn't so long ago that America was Marlboro country.

Cigarettes are the only consumer product which when used as intended will kill half of its long term customers. The global health crisis persists and in fact the threat is greater than ever. Smoking, this century, will kill a billion people if we don't do something about it. One billion deaths and nearly 80% of those deaths will take place in the developing world. That's were Big Tobacco is headed in an effort to make up for lost revenue in the US and Europe. The industry is on the hunt for new consumers in some of the poorest countries on Earth.

For a westerner, stepping off the plane in Indonesia is, in some ways, like stepping back in time. The onslaught of cigarette advertisements really starts when you hit the streets. The kind of marketing that has largely disappeared from the West now blankets Indonesia. Ad after ad, tying cigarettes to images of independence, adventure, and most of all youth.

The ubiquity of cigarette ads is not limited to the capital city of Jakarta either. Even on the dirt roads of the country's many rural villages it's the one aspect of the Indonesian landscape that remains constant. For Big Tobacco Indonesia offers fertile and perhaps irresistible new territory with little or no government regulation of the tobacco industry. Indonesia is the new Marlboro country.

More great documentaries

Notify of

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jasmine Betty Rosado
10 years ago

Weird picture

Nick Maninang
10 years ago

If they really want to stop this!!!! must stop manufacturing cigarette.......

10 years ago

It's actually rather sad to see what we do to each other in the name of making a buck. How people will lie on such mass scale to keep a profit. Some say its the business owner, others the share holders... it's everyone involved really.

10 years ago

I think its funny how everyone is complaining about smokers, probably while theyre standing next to a trailer spewing diesel fuel. Or eating some McGarbage. People stigmatize smokers cause its 'in' right now.

10 years ago

This is such BS. (Boomberg) I specifically left NYC because of the smokers. I knew I'd end up in jail because you can't walk down the street and NOT be in someone smoke stream. It's all over the streets. I knew I would assault a smoker very soon. I moved out west.

10 years ago

there seems to be a math mystery here. if the advertising/promotional
dollars of the "big tobacco" boys is "targeting kids", then why do 25%
of male teens smoke, while 73% of adult males smoke? those couple of
kids they showed were also smoking brands with the LEAST street

John Defalque
10 years ago

I can tolerate electronic cigarettes, even in an elevator.

John Defalque
10 years ago

Elevators shouldn't need a no smoking sign, but some @rseholes will never get that it's a confined space.Sometimes you see three smokers at a bus stop and you want to punch the cigarettes flat into their faces.

John Defalque
10 years ago

If I lived in the 50s, I would never eat out, go to a bar or any public space. China is like that now 1,000 smokers in an internet cafe-un fricken bearable! They say nicotine is a wonderful drug and that we should all use it, that may be so, but can we find a less offensive dielivery system? Are there no lollipops, gum, gel caps, patches, electronic cigs, vaporizers, suppositories, tea. I don't want to hate smokers, but they force me to carry a bandanna everywhere I go. I also give every passing smoker the finger. Even today, in Canada, smokers are amazed when I call security when I catch them smoking in an elevator-I should be legally allowed to assault anyone who smokes in an elevator.

Rachid Talal
10 years ago

I really suspected that the tobacco companies would target under-developed countries in order to compensate for their huge losses in the west as a result of the increasing awarness in the west regarding the health lethal dangers provoked by smoking .

I see , first hand , how smoking is on the rise in some poor countries i visit and it is not due to the ignorance of people there or because of the tobacco companies ' smart deceptive old-new marketing , no, it's mainly because smoking and some cheap drugs are almost the only ways to have "fun " or to relax ....

Make no mistake , people in poor countries ,or most of them , i guess , at least , know very well what smoking does to peoples' health , but , most of them just don't care, mainly because of their misery , poverty ...

P.S.: It would be very interesting to investigate the following scientifically :

Why even highly educated people still smoke , even though they know very well the lethal risks they take by doing so ? people like myself, i must add , to be honest .

I just re-started smoking after quitting in the last 8 days ....

Why people behave the way they do , even at the lethal risk of their health ?

You tell me .....

Harry Nutzack
10 years ago

there seems to be a math mystery here. if the advertising/promotional dollars of the "big tobacco" boys is "targeting kids", then why do 25% of male teens smoke, while 73% of adult males smoke? those couple of kids they showed were also smoking brands with the LEAST street advertising.
the kids smoke because the law allows it, and they can purchase the product. they smoke brands associated with "adulthood", as youth smoking is based on "not being seen as a kid". the youth based ad campaigns are aimed at adults "smoke these and you won't be perceived as an old codger".

when i started smoking as a pre-teen (11 or 12), it was in response to peer pressure ("dont be a pu**y") and not the ever present street advertising (all for brands i could never stand).
billboard advertising is NEVER aimed at kids. NEVER. think about it. ever seen a billboard for toys, or kid type candy? cartoon tv shows? kid targeted video games? billboards are semi-hypnotic suggestion for drivers, they work like a subliminal cut in video. children don't drive. the medium only works effectively if it is at the very edge of perception, just like all subliminal advertising.

Mr. Good Bomb
10 years ago

Without citing facts its just not worth listening to.

10 years ago

Why is it that these corporates are not in jail when my friend who sold an once of pot 30 yrs ago cannot go home to Virginia because he is still wanted for a year.

10 years ago

I feel we need to creat a framework for society (including business) that allows for morality. The profit motive is a relic in my opinion. If we continue to use the expressions of "that's business" and "if it makes money then sell" while expecting moral and ethics from business we will continually be left wanting. It is no longer okay to argue that the profit motive and free markets will regulate themselves. It is wrong that we promote such contrasting messages. We encourage people to buy products which claim natural beauty but where the model has been photoshopped and her hair is treated. And then wonder why we have people with unrealistic views of their bodies and perplexed by a rise in mental instability. If you want a moral and good society you need an economic framework that allows for it. Wouldn't it be better to not allow business practices that are know to impact on the society at large.

The saying is "IF it's good for the goose then it's good for the gander". I feel this is just not the case because what's good for those at the top is causing huge problems for the rest.

patrick adrien varencaus
10 years ago

another to big to fail in this world! ;(

10 years ago

Would love to see this topic done as a real documentary and without any of the Flashy "Wait for it, wait for it...BAM!" American take on what a doc should be.