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“It won’t be the nicotine that kills you, Mr Bond”

Everybody knows how James Bond’s life is stressful. He is a joker, a gambler, he smokes and drinks. But in “this ever-changing world in which we’re living” (Live and Let Die, lyrics) we have never seen James using an e-cigarette to get his nicotine fix, why? The warning, “It won’t be the nicotine that kills you, Mr Bond”, in the mouth of vilains, in 1967, could have paved the way of his smoking cessation.

 

Selected smoking trends in 24 James Bond movies from 1962 to 2015 (from Wilson & Tucker, 2017)

Interestingly, James has gradually decreased his smoking since the first movie in 1962 (83%) and stopped smoking 14 years ago. He relapsed for his “last cigar” in Die Another Day (Pierce Brosnan) and, since, hasn’t been spotted smoking, even in a mirror image (cf. Dr No where Sean Connery was smoking in bed).

Secondhand smoke exposure and temptation to smoke

Bérénice Marlohe smoking in Eon’s Skyfall movie (James Bond).

Bond’s exposure to cigarette smoke started at work, where his colleague at MI6, Miss Moneypenny, was spotted smoking as early as in 1963 (From Russia with Love). James also had multiple sexual partners who smoked and both enjoyed post-coital cigarette break, which adds to secondhand smoking the risk of fire.

Although Bond’s partners stopped smoking in the 1990s, the risk of a relapse into smoking couldn’t be completely discarded. The last occurence of a James Bond’s Girl smoking after almost 10 years of abstinence was in Skyfall (2012), as the French actress, Bérénice Marlohe (featuring Séverine), was holding a cigarette and blowing smoke at James’ face. Provocation?

Cigarettes, cigars, packs or lighters, the temptation to smoke was also present through the gadgets James received from Q’s for his missions. Were Dr No’s producers visionaries when they invented cyanide-containing cigarettes for use in suicide?

Tobacco products always refer to death

Remote controller hidden in a cigarette case (Thunderball, 1965)

In James Bond movies, various tobacco products have been diverted with strong reference to death, always. Some cigarettes were used to blow corrosive powder at vilains’ faces, hookah pipes were converted in machine guns and even a cigarette pack was equipped with a remote control detonator. But references to the risk of smoking have always been made with a lot of humour.

“You should give up smoking, cigarettes are very bad for your chest”
James received his first warning in 1967 when he was told “You should give up smoking, cigarettes are very bad for your chest” (in You Only Live Twice). His black humour about a cigarette that fires a rocket made him say “It can save your live, this cigarette”. He also ironically told “filthy habit!” to a man about his smoking after he knocked him out in 1997 (Tomorrow Never Dies).

 

Adaptation to changes in the society and anticipation

As health warnings appeared on British cigarette packs in 1971, reading “WARNING by H.M. Government, SMOKING CAN DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH”, James Bond (Roger Moore) referred to such warnings in 1974 (The Man with the Golden Gun) and said “I see why these packets carry a government warning (…) they certainly can damage your health”.

Innovation is not the only fact of James Bond’s high-tech gadgets. The study also reveals that the producers of the series had anticipation skills, especially when a person,  in Goldeneye, is seen going outside to smoke for the first time, saying “I’m going for a cigarette”. It was in 1995 the first reference to smoke-free workplaces while the Health Act 2006 that introduced provisions for the creation of a ban on smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces in the UK was enacted about 10 years later.

Smoke-free workplaces is also referred to in 1999, when Bond offered a cigar to Miss Moneypenny and she threw it into her office bin. But in the same movie (The World Is not Enough), James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is also seen smoking in public transportation: a private plane and a submarine.

James Bond (Timothy Dalton) manipulation a cigarette pack of the brand Lark (Licence to Kill, 1989)

After some studies dealt with alcohol use and violent behaviour in James Bond movies the authors believe that “persisting smoking content remains problematic”. They notice that product placement (Aston Martin, Martini, Marlboro, Lark) also occurred on two occasions against only one occasion where no reference to tobacco products was made (Casino Royale, 2006).

Given the wide audience, the authors recommend to rate the movies “R”, which indicates that their content is “Restricted exclusively to a certain audience” according to the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993. Isn’t it a bit too strict if one considers that James saved the world on several occasions?

 

“Will we see James Bond remaining abstinent in the future opuses of his movies?” “Will we see him using an electronic mods or rather a PMI/Altria HNB cigarette?”
The study demonstrates that James Bond has a problem with stress, games, alcohol and women. Nevertheless, the hero is shown to follow the general trends of the society. Given his good start to get rid of combustible cigarettes over the last 14 years and the taste of his colleagues for high-tech devices, there are some questions which appear to be on the lips of a number of persons: “Will we see James Bond remaining abstinent in the future opuses of his movies?” “Will we see him using an electronic mod or rather a PMI/Altria HNB cigarette?”

 

 


Wilson N & Tucker A., 2017. Die Another Day, James Bond’s smoking over six decadesTob Control doi:10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2016-053426