ADDICTION INCORPORATED is sssssmokin'
When I was a pale young thing growing up in Brooklyn, cigarettes were extremely alluring. Movie stars glamorously smoked them on the big screen, people elegantly puffed away on them in airplanes, and classy New York restaurants saw chain smoking as the height of sophistication. Taking my cue from all the hype, I once snuck into the cellar as a kid and took two hits off a Parliament I’d gotten my hands on, then filled the room with Wizard to make sure there was no trace left of my incredibly intoxicating indiscretion. All while coughing and choking my guts out.
Jump ahead a whole bunch of decades and it’s lucky I never had an addictive personality because I haven’t touched a cigarette since then, and by now that kind of thing would be considered the devil’s work! It’s unhealthy, uncouth, and all around unpopular.
And the guy you can thank for that, according to Charles Evans Jr.’s arresting new doc ADDICTION INCORPORATED, is research scientist Victor DeNoble, who turned whistleblower on the whole industry in order to reveal how they intentionally made cigs more addictive and lied about the health risks attached.
Working for Philip Morris in the ‘80s, DeNoble discovered that lab rats kept pressing a lever for more nicotine, a realization that tragically led to Marlboro cigarettes getting jazzed up with that ingredient in order to hook the public even more. To cover their traces, the company made him withdraw his research paper, but the film shows how the truth eventually came out in 1994 and led to federal regulation of the tobacco industry, with the aptly named DeNoble proving to be positively heroic and smoke-free through it all.
There are historic clips involving Al Gore, Janet Reno, and even President Obama, as well as animated bits, quick recreations, and various talking heads. But the film always goes back to DeNoble, who’s slick and charismatic, as if giving a well rehearsed presentation filled with detailed information (which he does these days for kids all over the country—and that’s financed by the tobacco industry, by the way. Poetic.)
Amazingly, DeNoble’s dyslexia and ADHD were misunderstood when he was growing up and he was told he was stupid and might not even graduate high school. Today he’s got a doctorate, a documentary, and the continuing glow of a career that forced an entire industry to reevaluate its unhealthy practices.