I Was a Corporate Tobacco Peddler
By Angelina Fanous for Vice
You shouldn’t work for a tobacco company, because it’s miserable. You know that reoccurring dream you get where you feel so heavy and you’re trying to move or run but you’re not getting anywhere? And you scream for help, but your voice doesn’t make a sound? And everything is dark? And even when you wake up, you can’t shake off what just happened in your subconscious? You move slower, picking up your feet as if the floor beneath you suddenly turned into quicksand. That’s what it was like working at Philip Morris.
This reoccurring dream, however, consumed 40 hours of my week. I watched as the CEO’s son, whose double-digit IQ shouldn’t even have qualified him to pump gasoline—let alone lead a corporate team—was given a promotion over half a dozen more qualified candidates. I listened to mediocre cum jokes from an over-the-hill, twice demoted middle manager after he had one too many scotch-and-waters at the company sales meetings. I nodded along when management gave a verbal blowjob to one of the executives who decided to take $2 or $3 off the slower-moving brands’ prices to sell more product, as I thought, Brava! Congratulations, you figured out what the bodega owner already knew after two weeks of being in business. This is also the same executive whose eyes didn’t make it above my neck when he first met me, the same executive who would later be named a “person of interest” in a woman’s disappearance.
I lied all summer to bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, tobacco-executive-wannabe college juniors about how wonderful it was to work at Philip Morris. “This is such a great company; there is so much opportunity to move up…” The truth was, if you weren’t ready to sign your life away, you weren’t ready for the ultra sexy title of “tobacco executive.” Unless of course you were the product of some incestuous recruiting habit, the friend of the brother of some big client’s kid.
The highlight of my career as a tobacco minion was the day I left.
A few weeks ago I was at a live taping of The Colbert Report, and ironically shelved, next to all things American, was a carton of cowboys’ favorite cigarettes—Marlboro Reds. I smirked, remembering the days I left behind. Tobacco isn’t evil; corporate America just sucks. I would’ve had the same encounters—the same corporate inbred stupidity and the same sleazy old men—whether I sold Chantix, the smoking cessation drug, or whether I sold the latest Marlboro line extension. And, unlike self-righteous professors accepting tainted tobacco dollars to sell graduate degrees, no one in tobacco is delusional.