Hi. Welcome to the site. Please check out the About Us, and if you have a question about crime and/or punishment, perhaps look at some previous questions along those lines first.
Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.


–1 vote
What is the genuine anarchist view on state-controlled substances such as alcohol and cigarettes? I'm not asking if anarchists drink or smoke, but how purchasing and using these heavily taxed products fits into the anarchist ideology.
i don't understand this question. are you asking about taxation (ie why are A&T so heavily taxed)? or about what anarchists believe? or about how anarchists behave (ie why do anarchists participate in heavily-taxed substances)? or something else?
Alcohol and tobacco are products we partake in of choice and leisure. Do some true anarchists avoid these substances because they are basically sold to us by our government? Or is using these substances not considered a faux pas because "everything is taxed"?

I ask because in the anarchist community I see people dutifully avoiding corporate retail and refusing to patronize government-funded conglomerates, going as far as to avoid Merck for much-needed prescription medication. Then I see these same people buying name-brand cigarettes and liquor. I guess my question is a theoretical one. Apparently being a slave to these poisons (which I am, to smoking at least) is overlooked when some 'anarchists' cut back on how they are buying into the system.

I did meet an old moonshiner in NC that also grew his own tobacco. He never paid a dime to the government and yet drank and smoked constantly. Though he didn't identify with the term "anarchist", the way he lived was the closest to anarchy I'd ever seen.

Thank you for your thoughts!
assuming gala and nihilisticpolymath are the same person, thanks for the clarification.

just fyi -- your emphasis on "true anarchists" is odd to me. it implies that there are false anarchists, which leads to a whole other train of thoughts.

for what it's worth though, i don't believe that it is possible to be in the world we live in and be pure. i tend to stay away from things that seem particularly ugly to me (which frequently includes corporations, etc) but it is an esthetic choice, not a political one. and consumer choices are not how i gauge an anarchist's sincerity, (although of course i have a lot of respect for people like funkyanarchy and bornagainanarchist et al, who live lives far more outside the grid than i do.)
yes, I made an account after I had already asked the question.

I am obviously relatively new to this school of thought, so please excuse my naivete. I am trying to understand how to better enact anarchist pov's as a lifestyle. I understand that there are no hard-and-fast 'rules' in anarchist ideology, and certainly purism is not an end goal here--but I do believe, at least at this point in my journey, that there are certain ideals one can uphold in their daily life that further the progress of resistance to the state. By 'true anarchist', I mean one who genuinely lives these principles, even if doing so poses an inconvenience for them. Consumerist habits are intrinsic to surviving in our capitalist society and I try my best to amend mine to avoid spending money in ways that benefit the state and big business. But, being a smoker, I feel like my patronage to big tobacco makes me a hypocrite. So it should be noted that I am criticizing my own lifestyle choices, not pointing fingers at others who I deem to not fit the imaginary anarchist bill or something, necessarily (though I do experience some contempt for people who blabber on and on about corporate greed with a bottle of Jack in their hand).

I feel like smoking is one of the best small pleasures in this wretched life and I could not imagine quitting. But as an animal liberator and newcomer to anarchist thought I am disgusted with the animal testing performed by the company that manufactures my favorite tobacco brand and the fact that my habit is lining the government's pockets.

Thoughts? Do those of you who consider yourself anarchists drink or smoke, and how do you feel about using these regulated products?
Also, I'd love to hear from funkyanarchy and bornagainanarchist as my goal is to one day exist as much as possible outside of the capitalist system. :)
Here is a link to a critique of alcohol as it relates to anarchists...
wow, thank you so much for that link! i am even more enlightened than i hoped i'd be about this subject.

1 Answer

+5 votes

There is no genuine anarchist view. If you desire purity of ideology, Maoism or Christianity will better serve you. Alcohol and tobacco are things that are both terrible and that help people. they are taxed, heavily, and that sucks. But if we think about things that are taxed, that doesn't only (or even mostly) apply to tobacco and alcohol. I live in a state with highly regressive sales tax, meaning that whenever I buy things other than unprepared food (ie grocery shopping), I pay taxes on that. granted the taxation is less than on alcohol and tobacco, but I probably pay more in general sales tax than specifically on A&T (can I just call it that from here out?).

Should A&T be taxed? Not in my opinion. So too gasoline, property (ewww!, I know!), toilet paper, contraception, the cinema, tampons, and everything else. We shouldn't be taxed.

Also though, why do we live in a world where we pay for any of this shit at all?

(edit) An additional and interesting line of inquiry might be what it is that makes alcohol (as either a social lubricant or a depressant) or tobacco (as either a stimulant or a known form of slow motion self-destruction) appealing to so many people?

by (22.1k points)
edited by
thumbs up on this answer. especially the edit! in terms of the specifics of a&t, i think that is maybe the most relevant question for anarchists (or anyone self-aware and self-critical).

taxation and regulation are inherent to democrapitalism. the fact that a&t are dealt with in a more heavy-handed way in those regards is - to me - irrelevant. that is (at least partly) a function of supposed "public good" or some such rhetoric (substances that are seen as "bad" are more highly taxed/regulated). interesting how some of the most heavily taxed/regulated products are also the most "addictive" (liquor, tobacco, gasoline, etc).  it is just yet another way in which we can see through the false barrier between state and capital.

"(edit) An additional and interesting line of inquiry might be what it is that makes alcohol (as either a social lubricant or a depressant) or tobacco (as either a stimulant or a known form of slow motion self-destruction) appealing to so many people?"

I consider this, as another empty amber bottle rolls across the floor boards.

Three (or perhaps four) thoughts sprout forth from this proposition.
Considering those substances that make our lives marginally more bearable, without killing us outright, such as marijuana, tobacco, alcohol, and also (in context) coca leaf, laudnum, khat, etc...

So, working back through time*:
How do these substances help us cope with lives that are often unbearable, and which we are constantly told - that which we are unable to change in any meaningful way?
How were these substances used in context?  Either as medicine, under the supervision of an elder or herb-woman; or as a component in a customary ceremony.
What effects caused these substances to be valued by pre-hierachic people?  Beyond the euphorics and hallucenogenics;  most of these substances block pain and fatigue, and quiet a troubled and anxious mind;  additionally, nicotine and marijuana smoke have been shown to kill parasitic larvae in the lungs, and we might surmise that alcohol (especially in binges) might have the same effect upon intestinal parasites.  All medicines, are poisons.
We are not the only creatures to pass through this world.  May we observe which plants are used also by wildlife?  (I recall that the pot smugglers in bc had a terrible time keeping the deer from chewing up their back-country plots.)

[I hope to flesh this out at some later time;  but at the moment, i have the attention span of a plague flea.  :(  ]

going kind of far afield from the "anarchist" along this thread, but the best book i've ever read (it was a long time ago) on substance use/abuse  is From Chocolate to Morphine, by andrew weil. it totally talks about how people use substances, and the issue is the culture we live in that has no appropriate sense of respect/ceremony/ritual around our interactions with the non-human world. ok, maybe i made up some of that last point. ;) but i think it was implicit, at least. i do remember he made a point of talking about the distillation of compounds screwing with the balance; ie removing material from the plant to make the drug/stronger, also takes out the materiel that for example slows down, makes sustainable, the metabolization of the substance.
anyway, it's a good book. worth checking out if interested in this topic.
i second weil's book. i haven't read the entire thing, but i've read many excerpts from it over the years. he does seem to have a fairly balanced, knowledgeable and common sensical approach to this subject, from what i recall.