The Average Gamer

Guns Don’t Kill People, Cigarettes Do

Smoking in real life is bad, kids. But it’s even worse in games.

Deus Ex

Rating: Weapons-grade dangerous

Picture the scene – JC Denton, nanouagmented futurespy, is strolling through Liberty Island. This is his first mission for UNATCO. Finding some terrorists, he sneaks up behind them and takes them out silently, hiding the bodies behind stacks of crates. He circumnavigates a sentry robot, and stands before the great, beheaded Lady Liberty herself. This is it. This is where he shows his employers that he’s the real deal.

He promptly clicks on the wrong button in his inventory, smokes four packets of cigarettes in one go, and keels over dead on the doorstep.

There’s something so fundamentally wrong about the way that Deus Ex treats cigarettes that it has to be applauded. Seeing as cigarettes are toxic, they do damage to the chest when smoked – 10 hit points of damage, namely. Assuming these are packets of twenty cigarettes, each therefore does 0.5 damage, which we’ll round up to 1 on account of that being the lowest damage count. Smoking 14 of them is equivalent to shooting yourself in the chest with a handgun; becoming a really heavy smoker, on a 50 day, is on a par with swallowing a live grenade. Or, rather, breathing it in over the space of 24 hours.

Using his bionic lungs and the fact that he’s a character in an RPG, JC can power through five packets in one go – often while he’s trying to drop them on the ground to free up inventory space. That’s like putting a rocket launcher in your mouth and pulling the trigger. Most people would probably give up after one or two, and the weaker constitutions of children could mean that, unless treated, their tenth cigarette could be the one that kills them.

Assuming you’re not a nanoaugmented futurespy, smoking in the world of Deus Ex is an expensive past-time. Although medkits are available that operate on an almost automatic basis, their cost is prohibitive. Smoking becomes the province of the elite only or those with regnerating health – as the teaser trailer for Human Revolutions, featuring a cigarette-toting Adam Lensen, proves.


Rating: Harmless, expensive

In Vanquish, you play a rocket-boosted white-armoured d–kbag inexplicably involved in next-generation armour research for the US government. The military let you hang around with them during the field test for reasons that are never fully explained, and only pass grudging acceptance on you turning up to fight the majority of their war against invading Russian robots for them.

Vanquish, unlike most games, features a Smoke Break button. If you push your Dash button behind cover, your armoured d–kbag will retract his helmet, pop a cigarette in his mouth, and take a single drag before throwing it away. No damage is sustained on the player character for this, but no benefit is offered either See the edit below.

It’s hard to tell whether your character doesn’t really like smoking and is just doing it to look cool, or if he’s of the belief that smoking only the first drag of every cigarette means that you avoid cancer. If this is how people smoke in the future, though, it’s going to become too expensive to sustain for the average user – unless the giant ring-world colonies in space are being used to farm additional tobacco with constant exposure to the sun, but it seems unlikely that the manufacturers would pass the savings on to the customer.

EDIT: I’ve been told that the cigarettes actually distract heat-seeking missiles from your character, which is great. I’d imagine that the health benefits of not getting shot with a heat-seeking missile FAR outweigh the detriments of a single inhalation of cigarette smoke, which makes Vanquish the Official Safest Place to Smoke in Videogames.

Fallout New Vegas

Rating: Exclusive, Dangerous

The Courier, protagonist of Fallout: New Vegas, does not smoke. They indulge in plenty of other drugs or “chems” – these can prove to be very addictive and have definite effects, both short- and long-term, on the user – but cigarettes evade them, instead being reduced to mere items traded for bottlecaps in the Nevada wasteland.

Benny, check-suited scumbag extraordinare, smokes and leaves the Distinctive Cigarette Butt at the scene of your attempted murder – side effects for him included the Courier breaking into his apartment and punching him so hard that his torso flew away from his body, leaving his limbs hanging in mid-air looking embarassed. At least, that’s what happened on my save.


Rating: Harmful, exciting

In the libertarian paradise of Rapture, grabbing a pack of Nico-Time cigarettes will fractionally decrease your health but fractionally increase your EVE – the opposite of alcohol, which makes you healthier but damages your EVE. Combined with plasmids, this opens a whole new world of possibilities to cigarettes, because if you smoke them right, they give you superpowers.

Want to set things on fire with your mind? Try cigarettes! Want to electrify water? Cigarettes again! Want to create a minature tornado? Cigarettes to the rescue! Want to shoot BEES out of your HAND? SMOKE SOME CIGARETTES AND BEES WILL SHOOT OUT OF YOUR HANDS.

The detriment to health is very low – still much more harmful than real life, but almost the lowest of the games examined disregarding those where smoking is harmless. Despite the long-term side effects of plasmids being insanity, death and crumbling empires, and cigarettes encouraging their use and proliferation, it’s hard not to encourage drugs that endow the users with superpowers.


Rating: Awful

On this little-known PS2 tie-in title, Constantine’s smoking habit is directly punished by God – not just by lung cancer, but by cursing the wizard to end up in a terrible game about a terrible film with terrible muddy graphics and a terrible UI so obtrusive it couldn’t be more in the way if it poked you in the eye and knocked the controller out of your hand whenever you tried to pick it up.

Team Fortress 2

Rating: Deadly, but not in the way you’d think

The Spy, debonair French murder enthusiast and lover of beehive hairdos, uses cigarettes as part of his arsenal – in addition to a switchblade, a sapper and a revolver, his case of cigarettes inexplicably allows him to disguise himself as a member of the other team through a haze of smoke and a discount paper mask. At which point people start dying.

Not always his enemies, of course. Quite often – much as players dream of effortlessly disguising themselves as a variety of enemy classes and unleashing hell on the enemy from behind their own lines – the Spy’s peculiar playstyle requires more than average levels of finesse. And seeing as the Spy is apparently built from wet tissue paper and spiderwebs, the suspicions of a single player can see a quick end to the would-be saboteur as a single burst of fire sends him sprawling across the arena.

Cigarettes themselves are harmless – disguising oneself as an enemy team-member and attempting to pass yourself off as one of them certainly is.

Metal Gear Solid

Rating: Deadly, Complicated

Metal Gear Solid contains perhaps the most famous example of smoking in-game – after crawling into the enemy base, Solid Snake sicks up a packet of cigarettes he smuggled “in his stomach” and slips them into his pocket. Luckily for us, the scene takes place off-camera. Using the cigarettes depletes his health at an alarming rate, and over the space of time it takes to smoke a single cigarette in real life, Snake suffocates from smoke inhalation and dies.

This should make them the most lethal cigarettes in games ever, as one will kill the average human. But unlike many titles, cigarettes have an alternate function in the Metal Gear Solid titles – they reveal hidden laser traps, steady the player’s aim with sniper rifles )which seems to be a less drastic solution to shaky hands than knocking back some diazepam) and even slow down time during the escape from a self-destructing Outer Heaven.

Without these cigarettes, Snake would – at the very least – been unable to view those laser traps, set off the alarms, and take several hundred assault rifle rounds to the chest – an attack which is significantly more dangerous than smoking. In that respect, they’re a vital tool for any civil servant involved with the avoidance of deadly laser traps, but not recommended outside of espionage work.


It’s clear, then, that smoking in videogames is bad for your health. Perhaps even more so than taking bullets to the chest – at least on average, when you factor in how many cigarettes the average real-world smoker gets through, and how many bullets the average real-world chest absorbs in a given lifetime. Is it sanctimonious preaching? Perhaps a little; after all, shooting up a bunch of bad guys is morally fine, but using recreational drugs is frowned upon by the big publishers.

The other main factor is that games rarely tell a story longer than a few days in length; and whilst cigarettes can cause shortness of breath or light-headedness on occasion, they’re not shaving hit points off you as though you plunged your hand into a blender (Deus Ex notwithstanding). Perhaps games could reflect the shortness of breath with a reduced running speed or stamina bar. All of this drives home the point, though, that cigarettes are effectively useless drugs and don’t offer a high or any benefit that can be realistically modelled into a virtual universe. A depressing point for smokers like me to bear.

That said, it does make you look really cool.