A few years ago, I worked in a bookshop in Dublin and sometimes I operated the tobacco counter. There I learned that customers are defined by their cigarettes. Here are some of the associations I made:
Benson&Hedges: Bought by inborn Dubliners with heavy accents. Only men, mostly bald.
Marlboro Light: Girls, boys, everyone rather young and good looking. Party smokers. No yellow nails, no yellow teeth, no smoker’s cough, yet.
Marlboro Red: Mostly people I never remembered but also the beggar lady outside the store who always paid with very small change
John Player Blue: An Irish favourite, especially among those living on the North side of the Liffey River. “20 Bleu dere love when yeer ready” echoed in my head at the end of the work day.
Other associations I’ve gathered throughout the years:
Lucky Strike: An urban legend says that Lucky Strike got it’s name through a advertisement campaign where one cigarette out of 1000 would contain marijuana. If you got that very cigarette, that was a lucky strike.
Gauloises: Almost embarrassingly associated with Parisian nostalgia. Rarely pronounced correctly outside of France.
Perfect for chain smoking in bed and, trying to make the smoke fill out the void of a broken heart. (It won’t work but it will give you something to do for a while)
Red Prince and John Silver: For the suicidal ones
Vogue: Popular among truck and taxi drivers in Poland.
Camel: Smoked by Charles Bukowski's father. The pyramids are supposed to be magical, with different dimensions in every angle.
A lot of money and thought has been put into the design of the packaging, first by hiring the highly sought after graphic designer Fred Otto Kleesattel and later by incorporating camouflaged objects into the camel, such as buildings, Manneken pis and a naked man.
Davidoff: Strong beautiful girls with hard hard eyes. Often found a long way from home.
Tigra: Belgian cigarettes. The tiger lady on the pack is said to be a 50ies model from Antwerp who was murdered under strange circumstances.
Marlboro Menthol: Parisian boy unconsciously reviving childhood memories of drinking sweet mint tea with his father on the balcony near the harbour of Alexandria.
Pall Mall: Kurt Vonnegut called them “a classy way to commit suicide”, although I don’t agree. To me, they’re a last resort, and they don't even have the little cartoon flip that can be used as a filter.
Blend: I’ve never seen them outside Sweden but each time I hear the words ‘Yellow Blend’ I see an unhappy single mum in the 90’s in front of me, with a castrated cat by her feet, smoking Yellow Blend under the kitchen fan.
Mayfair lights: Their slogan goes "a good smoke at a fair price" and they’re the alternative if you find yourself broke in London, cause you’ve spent all your money on pints and those funny looking but expensive cabs. They taste like shit but apparently they’re the second most popular cigarette brand in the U.K
There are unfaithful smokers too – those who start off sneak-smoking Marlboro lights at an early age, as they get more life experience they turn to Lucky Strike. With their first job and some cultural references in their backpack, they switch for Camels. Later, as the economic crisis hits them, they rationalise, step down and convert to Pall Mall.
A smoker’s life is always in motion.
Cigarettes are a curious symbol. They have a dangerous aura among them, but the killing takes enough time for me to be brave enough to ignore the danger. Smoking brings people together and cigarettes contrast perfectly with the beauty of youth and smell like death and (night) life simultaneously.
But to be honest, all of this are just stories and associations made out of illusions, trying to make lives more like films and turn grey days into melodramatic ones. The real consequence of me writing this post is that I’ll have a really hard time finding a health insurance to a decent price since I now got SMOKER written on my forehead.
Hello, my name is Julia and I like living on the edge.