Haters Gonna Hate, but I Suspect Smokers and Petrolheads Are Wired the Same

I’m not a smoker. I never was and I’ll never be. However, I was a petrolhead. I still have a little devilish petrolhead hidden in my brain. But the engineer in me understood perfectly the big issues of burning fossil fuels in internal combustion engines. Same as common sense and intuition warned me about the cigarettes’ perils.
Smokers & Petrolheads - are they alike? 6 photos
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Smokers & Petrolheads - are they alike?Smokers & Petrolheads - are they alike?Smokers & Petrolheads - are they alike?Smokers & Petrolheads - are they alike?Smokers & Petrolheads - are they alike?
Have you read Mark Manson’s book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck? Well, I haven’t. I only heard opinions about it. Not the kind to make me care about the book, though. But this bold, and even outrageous title for some, had me thinking about the things in my life I don’t give a damn.

Then I started thinking about the things I do give a damn about and why is that. One of them is the pollution caused by vehicles powered by internal combustion engines. We have a long history, me and pollutants.

Let me tell you a little story, to get my point

When I was a kid, I and my folks used to regularly visit my grandfather, who lived in a city over a steep mountain, some 60 km (37 miles) away. We usually traveled by bus. Well, more of an old, smelly, and smoky huge can.

The diesel fumes were all over the bus because of the rusted exhaust and the holes in the floor. By the way, in the ‘80s there was no such thing as an emissions standard, especially in Dracula’s country. We sometimes traveled in our family car, with an old petrol engine, using leaded gasoline.

So, every time we crossed that mountain, either by bus or by car, I was ending up stopping the bus or the car to rush out and throw up. My folks were convinced I had some motion sickness because of the curves. But it was the result of inhaling diesel fumes or gasoline pollutants, along with cigarette smoke.

About half of the people on the bus were smoking on the journey. My dad was a heavy smoker, too, so I had to fight both the engine pollutants and the cigarettes’ when we were traveling in our car as well.

Smokers & Petrolheads \- are they alike\?
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It’s kind of weird I’m not a smoker. I was surrounded by them. My dad, my grandpa, and most of my parents’ friends were smokers. Many of my classmates in high school or college were smokers even before getting 14 years old.

Later, I feared my lungs were forever affected. It turned out my lungs were in good shape. Doctors told me that was because I wasn’t a smoker and because I dodged second-hand smoking. I don’t know about the second one, but I’m happy my lungs are ok.

I know you don’t care about my childhood experiences, but there is a point in telling you all of these. In my brain, both diesel and smoking became ‘persona non grata’ early in my life, mostly because of traveling by bus when I was a kid.

You are cool if you are a smoker and a petrolhead

I don’t know when I became a petrolhead, but I suspect it was around 6 years old. Someone gave me a Jaguar brochure. It was mindblowing. I remember I couldn’t believe my eyes that a car could look like that. I was also fascinated that there was something called ‘car design,’ and that cars had ‘performance.’

I can’t tell if later on I became obsessed or addicted to car magazines. But I’m sure it felt like becoming a smoker, at some level. The moment I would finish reading a magazine and dreamt about supercars, I was eager to buy the next issue. Just like as a smoker is eager to light a new cigarette.

When I finally took my driver’s license at 18, I forgot all the problems I had with those buses in my childhood. I was driving over that mountain and I was enjoying it, not feeling sick anymore because of the fumes. Enjoying driving was more important than the side effects. Same as smoking, would you agree?

Smokers & Petrolheads \- are they alike\?
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Once again, it’s weird I didn’t become a smoker. At that time, all the magazines, all the movies, the society were advertising cars and smoking as the coolest thing. It was just like in Hollywood movies, where the boys and girls who smoke are the stars, and driving cars made them superstars.

Today, we know it was all marketing. Claiming that smoking and driving fancy cars was cool was just propaganda. When you’re very young, your critical thinking is weak, and teenagers are shooting ducks for Big Tobacco, as well for Big Auto.

Back in the day, being in your twenties meant not giving a damn about the future, about career, family, or a sustainable future. It was more important to party, to enjoy life, and to live in the moment. Tobacco companies, as well as car companies, were sooo good at keeping this euphoria.

Information is the key. Or rather lack of information, or even disinformation

Gradually, people became more aware of smoking perils. Health facts started to emerge, activists became more convincing, and policymakers started to take measures. One in four people on the planet was already a smoker in the ‘90s.

And keep in mind this was the World Health Organization statistics, which only accounted for people over 15 years old. Big Tobacco fought back, and it was a messy war. They had the money, they had the marketing tools, and they had the control because of the dependency their cigarettes are responsible for.

I remember when tobacco brands disappeared from F1 cars. When smoking vanished from movies. When smoking inside was banned and all those horrible photos and warnings started to show on cigarette packs.

Smokers & Petrolheads \- are they alike\?
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It was all happening gradually, and it was all based on scientific and medical facts. But the transition was slow because of disinformation the tobacco companies were spreading. The science was contested with no proof, and the money bought politicians and false influencers seeding doubt.

Most of the smokers I know, including my dad, who’s in his ‘80s now, were convinced by Big Tobacco propaganda to not believe science and medical data. That’s because Big Tobacco’s advocates were geniuses and invented an enemy.

‘They’ want to take our freedom, ‘they’ conspire to control us, ‘they’ have hidden interests to make us stop smoking – I heard all of these from the smokers all around me. In the meantime, the real ‘they’ were earning huge bucks on their addicted clients, while causing cancer and respiratory diseases to many of them.

It’s one of the evilest plans in the recent history of humanity. And even the biggest fans of smoking know this. But the vast majority of the more than 1.3 billion smokers in the world still choose to not give a damn. Many of them migrate to new alternatives, advertised by tobacco companies as less hazardous to health.

Now replace smokers with petrolheads. It’s the same story, only bigger

When in college, I learned a lot about cars and engines. In the process, I became aware of the pollutants and emissions, because of my childhood memories of the horrible buses. But I was not interested in them and their effects. At first.

As in the case of the tobacco industry, fossil fuels’ big issues started to reveal in the 90s. The energy industry was the biggest client for coal, while the car industry was the same for oil. The whole society was, and still is, addicted to fossil fuels. Just like smokers are addicted to cigarettes.

Emissions standards became gradually more stringent for road transport, and this made me wonder why. I learned about CO2 and global warming, climate change, and all the harm of the pollutants resulting from burning huge amounts of fossil fuels.

Smokers & Petrolheads \- are they alike\?
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Probably, if I were a smoker, I would have not given a damn about all this greenwashing propaganda. Most of my smoking friends think I’m greenwashed and always find other causes for global warming than fossil fuels.

Or they acknowledge the problem but minimize it. As they do with smoking health issues. “Global warming? It’s not a big deal” or “Climate change won’t kill us” sounds the same as “Lung cancer? Not me” or “I can give up smoking whenever I want, but I don’t want to.

Petrolheads generally accept the related pollution as nothing can be done about it. Psychologically, it’s understandable. The human being is concerned most of all about the things that directly and immediately impact his or her life.

That 2° scenario is too far in time to worry, but inflation or war or food and fuel rising prices are happening now. The same with lung cancer or respiratory diseases. Smokers usually see them as distant threats, so they keep on smoking, not realizing they harm their bodies on purpose.

The real problem is hardcore petrolheads

I simply don’t understand these people. They are the peons the oil companies are using to spread disinformation and postpone the ICE ban. These people simply refuse to acknowledge facts and real proof. And this is dangerous.

Just think about it. If tomorrow smoking kills everyone that smokes, there would be around 1.5-2 billion casualties. The remaining 6-6.5 billion people would keep living. It means 75-80% of humanity survives.

But if tomorrow the pollutants from fossil fuels kill everyone that is breathing the air, chances of survival decrease to just 10%. According to World Health Organization, 9 of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants.

It's like 90% of the planet’s population is smoking the worst kind of cigarettes. It just crossed my mind that maybe fossil fuels are some evil planetary extinction program… It does remind you of a popular depopulating conspiracy theory, does it?

Smokers & Petrolheads \- are they alike\?
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Back to hardcore petrolheads, they will say anything to keep internal combustion engines alive. You already know their favorite subjects, ranging from EV battery manufacturing polluting more than building a conventional car to hydrogen and e-fuels being better than electromobility.

Every time I try to have a normal debate with hardcore petrolheads, it’s the same: they don’t care about my arguments, but I am supposed to accept their 'truths.' It’s like trying to reason with a heroin or cocaine drug addict. Smokers are suddenly the nice guys.

Bottomline, I see a lot of similarities between smokers and petrolheads. I may be wrong, as I’m not a psychologist. But I base my arguments on information filtered by critical thinking, common sense, and engineering understanding.

There is also a difference between them. Smoking is bad, especially for YOUR health, while burning fossil fuels is bad for EVERYONE’s health.
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About the author: Oraan Marc
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After graduating college with an automotive degree, Oraan went for a journalism career. 15 years went by and another switch turned him from a petrolhead into an electrohead, so watch his profile for insight into green tech, EVs of all kinds and alternative propulsion systems.
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