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Smoking in the Twilight Sector

This article was originally posted to the TerraSol Games blog at http://terrasolgames.com on April 19, 2011 and was reprinted in the August 2011 issue of Freelance Traveller with the author’s permission.

Tobacco has been a part of human culture long before the North American Natives of Old Earth introduced it to the Europeans of that same planet. The Europeans then proceeded to attribute both virtue and vice to its use. The last millennia has seen rises and falls in the consumption of the plant but it has never left humanity’s side. As with anything that was extant at the beginning of the current millennium and is still so today it has gone through many styles and modes of use.

Today the predominant form of tobacco use is cigarettes. This form of consumption once branded as the most deadly to human health is thought of as totally safe in 2991. Modern medicine can be thanked for that. Once a decade gene spa therapy treatments remove accumulated tar and correct any potential medical problems. Even with that fact there are still those who abhor the concept of smoking and attack it on medical grounds. They have seen success in some Confed political entities getting regulations passed requiring so called “Cleaner Cigarettes” more commonly called cleaning rounds by smokers. Presumably in reference to cleaning rounds used in some weapons. These “Cleaner Cigarettes” contain heat activated nanites which clean out any tar deposits in the lungs. There is typically one “Cleaner Cigarette” in each pack. The problems cited by smokers is they induce coughing fits to clear the debris the nanites remove and they taste horrible. Most places that require them find that they are seldom used by consumers of cigarettes.

Cigarette usage rises and falls over the decade often as a fashion statement. Currently the practice is quite popular on Terra/Sol with approximately 41% of the population smoking at least every week. Studies have shown that much of this is driven by visibility in the media. This has lead to cutthroat competition for product placement in things like movies and vid programs where cigarette advertising is also one of the major revenue sources.

So how does this affect my game? Not a lot really. This is background info designed to provide your game with flavor (no pun intended…well maybe just a little) and depth. However there are some tangible uses as well. Some Orion states like The Federated Republics of the Russias (The Russian Empire) and Ukraine have extensive restrictions on tobacco use and impose extraordinary tariffs on tobacco products. This has created a thriving black market. A two-credit pack of cigarettes can sell for anywhere from four to six times its value. For the most part it’s background window dressing to make your game feel deeper. And there aren’t many substitutes for “cigarette?” as an icebreaker with your underworld contact or that cute guy/girl in the corner.

On an interstellar level there is a large market for Orion tobacco products on Argos. Apparently the cheap cigarettes provided in the company stores by the PAX Combine are not organolepticly pleasing…in the extreme! Therefore a black market for Orion products (which are banned) exists. MAC workers often smuggle in a few cartons to make an extra credit. A shipload sold to the right contacts could make a crew a pile of money.