Tobacco companies produced the most deadly product on earth while they maintained a perfect record of defeating those who tried to reign them in. ADDICTION INCORPORATED, tells the true story of how Victor DeNoble's unexpected discovery of an addiction ingredient in tobacco leads to both more addictive Marlboro cigarettes and Congressional testimony. The public revelation of long held tobacco industry secrets leads journalists, politicians, attorneys and whistle blowers into an unexpected alliance, that achieves the first ever federal regulation of the tobacco industry. Victor's unwavering determination to "do some good" leads to a career as an educator that informs kids about the world's only industry where success is measured by ability to addict people. Written by
A fairly necessary reminder of a story we think we know entirely
I write this review of the documentary Addiction Incorporated as not only a casual smoker of both cigarettes and cigars myself, but as someone fascinated by the variety of tobacco and tobacco-related products in the United States. Ever since I turned eighteen, I've been a casual smoker, smoking no more than three cigarettes a day, researching on tobacco trends and specifics of particular cigarettes and cigars, while frequenting tobacco shops and lounges with my friends. It's a culture that's attractive because of its variety, history, and stigma, especially in recent time. I distinctly remember being a young child going into Red Lobster or another restaurant and having my mother, a smoker for several decades, and my grandmother, another smoker for several decades before quitting in the late 2000's, asking for a "smoking table." Now, you'll be lucky to smoke immediately outside of that same building.
Addiction Incorporated is a documentary about tobacco losing its respectable place and staple in American culture. What was once a proud staple of unabashed freedom and Americana has now become viewed as a gross habit with seriously lethal consequences, with concrete evidence and support to back up such statements. It concerns a man named Victor DeNoble, with a cool demeanor and relaxing narrative voice that was made for any documentary, who was hired by Philip Morris several decades ago to develop an equally addictive substitute for nicotine. This was during the time that companies like Morris (Marlboro) and R.J. Reynolds (Camel) were beginning to succumb to proof from studies that a correlation between cigarette smoking and lung cancer was undeniable and prevalent. Nonetheless, even DeNoble himself confirms that they did want to develop an alternative to nicotine. After all, as stated in the documentary, dead smokers don't buy cigarettes.
DeNoble worked with a man named Bill Farone to help develop the substitute, but during this process, DeNoble worked with lab-rats as he worked to discover what nicotine really does to the brain. In DeNoble's experiment, rats were given doses of nicotine to their brain respective to their body-size whenever they pressed a button. Eventually, over the course of just a few days, the rats went from pushing the button just a few times a day to pushing it over one-hundred times a day. After this discovery, the evidence was indisputable; nicotine did dangerous things to the brain and was delivered by way of one of America's favorite social activities and passtimes.
We're told when nicotine enters the body, it directly affects a person's breathing as well as their heart-rate. It also is something that has to be introduced to the body; once acquainted, it activates nerves and emotions in the brain that weren't previously known to the body, which is what results in a sudden craving for a cigarette and the ongoing addiction. DeNoble was also one of the first people to look at acetaldehyde, a chemical that serves as one of the key factors in getting nicotine to resonate in the body and the mind. With that, DeNoble looked to present his research to the tobacco companies, who, regardless of the scientific findings, had two prime goals - sell more cigarettes and make more money.
DeNoble states that while companies like Philip Morris were selling a lifestyle, they were really engaging drug marketing. They were engaging in normalizing drug use in popular culture, where people could regularly purchase and use a legal drug while skeptically observing or writing off others perceived as "more dangerous" or "more deadly." The anomaly such a thing presents is quite striking, but DeNoble reminds us of a time where Americans refused to accept that one of their favorite, more cherished things was slowly killing them and turning them into addicts.
Addiction Incorporated covers all that and more, including the long legal battle between DeNoble and Philip Morris that famously had the tobacco company denying any prior knowledge that their product lead to a variety of diseases and resulted in a countless number of deaths. Curiously enough, I don't recall the word "cancer" being uttered once in the film; that's because the focus is largely on DeNoble, his findings, and Philip Morris's response to those findings. As a result, Addiction Incorporated winds up being a documentary that retraces well-covered steps, but nonetheless basks in an aura of importance with an engaging presence and understandable storytelling devices at its core. It doesn't predicate on fear, but on proved sentiments and winds up being thoroughly enjoyable and informative at that.
Directed by: Charles Evans Jr.
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