Today, the world will spend $1.2 billion on tobacco products. More than a billion people will light a cigarette, and more than 10,000 will die of smoking-related illnesses. Our relationship with the cigarette - a seductive yet utterly lethal product - is as strange and passionate a romance as any this planet has ever seen.
This irreverent and unsettling BBC documentary tells the story of a single day in the life of humanity's obsessive but ultimately fatal attraction to the cigarette. A whirlwind journey around the globe, from the heartland of American tobacco industry in North Carolina to the streets of mainland China, We Love Cigarettes offers up unforgettable portraits of men and women whose own lives are bound up with the worldwide addiction to nicotine.
Among them: British author, smoking aficionado and smoker's rights champion James Leavey; Duke University researcher Jed Rose, inventor of the nicotine patch, who is studying how this drug nicotine works upon the human body; Dr. Chris Proctor, head of science for a British tobacco manufacturer - and an ex-smoker who quit because of "health risks"; British cardiac specialist Dr. Stephen Westaby, who has operated on the hearts of more than 4,000 smokers; corporate whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand (memorably portrayed by Russell Crowe in The Insider), who has spent years waging a quixotic one-man crusade against the tobacco industry; and famed British painter David Hockney, who dismisses the campaign against smoking as a totalitarian war on pleasure.
In much of the Western world, our love affair with the tobacco has soured since the 1960s. In developing nations, however, the romance is still in its first flush. As many as 70 percent of the world's smokers now reside in poorer countries, and nearly a third of all cigarettes today are smoked in China. Love it or hate it - and many of us, frankly, do both - the cigarette isn't going to be out of our lives any time soon.
Bill Nighy (Notes on a Scandal, Love Actually) narrates.
More ichannel Documentary Highlights for the Week of Feb. 7
THE MURDERED BRIDE - Monday Feb. 7 at 9 pm ET/PT
Repeats Saturday, Feb. 12 at 9 pm ET/PT
On June 9, 2000, the body of a young Sikh-Canadian woman was found in an irrigation ditch near the village of Kaonke Khosa in Punjab. Her throat had been slit. A month later, more than a dozen people were charged in connection with the murder of Jaswinder Kaur Sidhu - among them her mother and uncle in Canada. Investigators concluded that Jassi's wealthy family plotted her death after she defied their wishes and was married in secret to a man they deemed unsuitable: an impoverished rickshaw driver named Mitto Singh Sidhu. This documentary tells the tragic story of Jassi Kaur Sidhu's life and death, and sheds light on the brutal custom of "honour killing," a remnant of ancient tribal custom that persists, troublingly, among some members of Canada's South Asian and Middle Eastern immigrant communities.
HOW DOES YOUR MEMORY WORK? - Wednesday Feb. 9 at 9 pm ET/PT
Your memory is you. The catalogue of your past experiences is the raw material from which your identity is shaped. The more science understands about memory, the more remarkable it seems. How is it that something as complex as a memory can be conjured from the connections between brain cells? This 2008 BBC documentary takes a fascinating look at recent advances in neuroscience that are helping us to grasp the essential nature of memory - from studies that reveal how young children begin to form their memories to research that is shedding new light on the loss of memory that accompanies old age. And the hour-long film profiles ordinary people whose stories illustrate the profound complexity of human memory: among them a 30-year-old British man whose damaged brain is unable to form autobiographical memories, leaving him trapped in an eternal present, and a young sexual assault survivor from Montreal who is helping researchers test a promising new treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
THE SECRET LIFE OF THE DOG - Wednesday Feb. 9 at 10 pm ET/PT
Dogs have been domesticated for longer than any other animal on the planet. They are close relatives of fearsome wild wolves - yet we treat them as members of our families. Why have canines forged such a close bond with human beings, and what can we learn from this unique relationship? This 2010 documentary from the BBC looks at new research that is helping us to understand, better than ever, how man's best friend truly thinks and feels.
VILLAGE OF SPIRITS: LILY DALE - Thursday Feb. 10 at 9 pm ET/PT
The tiny hamlet of Lily Dale in northern New York State attracts thousands of visitors each year, all with the same purpose: to hear messages from departed loved ones. The largest surviving Spiritualist community in the world, Lily Dale is home more than three dozen registered mediums. In July and August, this gated community opens itself to outsiders, becoming a kind of "Spiritualist summer camp." People come from all over the world to experience readings and spiritual healing sessions, and to connect with friends and family long gone from the world. This 2006 documentary follows Saskatchewan filmmaker Jackie Dzuba as she meets some of the mediums and spiritual healers who call Lily Dale home, speaks to other visitors about their reasons for coming, and - with some trepidation - embarks on an emotional quest to make contact with her own deceased father.
GLOBALIZATION IS GOOD - Friday Feb. 11 at 9 pm ET/PT
Call it Yes Logo. As controversial today as it was when it first premiered in 2003 on Britain's Channel Four, this hour-long documentary makes a provocative case in support of globalization. Young Swedish writer Johan Norberg takes the viewer on a journey around the world to assess the impact of globalization - and its absence - and to examine the role of multinational corporations. His conclusion, after investigating conditions in countries such as Taiwan, Vietnam and Kenya: the unequal distribution of wealth in the world is the result of the unequal distribution of capitalism - those who have capitalism grow rich, while those who don't stay poor. The "ignorant and dangerous" anti-globalization movement, he warns, is inadvertently helping to keep the world's poor trapped in poverty.