Sophie Heawood: The new cool is... ciggies with no logo

Dedicated slight smoker our writer finds a guilt-free way to light up

Share
Related Topics

My friend was doing up her flat last week and found a packet of Woodbines beneath the floorboards. It was exciting, like a message in a bottle from a lost generation; a sudden whiff of the desires of somebody who got to her home before she did. In the same week, Australia banned the branding on cigarettes, so all of their smokes must now come in the same, dull, regulation packets. An olive green affair with a photo of a tobacco-addled throat or a breathless premature baby where the logos used to be, and a teeny brand name. The British government is considering doing the same, so the accidental archaeologists of the future will need a magnifying glass to know if their builders smoked B&H or Silk Cut or menthols. The tobacco industry is protesting, naturally, and even a spokesman for corner shops says this will make it harder for the staff to work out what's on the shelf, increasing the time it takes to serve you. Which is probably half the point. Without branding, how will you even know what to want?

Oh I'd love to say that nobody smokes because it's cool or has associations with cool things or colours or places or moods. I'd particularly love to pretend that, as a 36-year-old occasional friend of fags, I find the illicit thrill of sometimes harbouring a pack of Marlboro Lights in my handbag does nothing for me. That I in no way imagine myself to be Kate Moss while puffing langourously on one. But when I imagine that white and gold design replaced by something that looks one part NHS specs, one part prescription methadone, and picture it inside my handbag, my interest crumbles. A branded packet is something that you want. Once those names and pictures are gone, and you're still buying, there's no wanting any more. You just need.

Part of Alan Carr's technique, in his Easy Way To Stop Smoking, is to make you ask yourself when you first decided to be a smoker. Not when you first smoked, but when you chose to be A Smoker. The more Carr bangs on about it, and you think about somebody in a windy bus stop trying to make the match stay alight for long enough to light that cancer-stick in his mouth, you realise you never wanted to be that person. It disturbs you. This smoking is just a flirtation with the activities of others, for a while. A smoker's life. That isn't you.

In the Olympic Park, where the branding wars were so far-fetched that you could buy things to eat other than McDonald's, and things to drink other than Coke, but you couldn't call them by their name, my friend and I enjoyed glasses of Number One Fruit Cup. It tasted awfully like Pimms, despite sounding like something lost in translation back from Chinese characters. And yet, the experience wasn't ridiculous. It was somehow liberating. I came to enjoy being in this brandless world, eating my Mexican food from the shop marked Mexican Food, blissfully unaware of exactly who had marketed it to me. Could the brandlessness of fags backfire, and give them added cool? 

My friend Rose once went on a haphazard sort of date with a man who worked at an anti-smoking charity. As they left the pub, drunk, they suddenly craved cigarettes, so he took her to his office and rummaged through the demonstration materials until he had extricated a spare fag from the sponge and plastic bottle contraption representing a lung. God, how they loved that fag. Cigarettes are a perversion, so it's hard to say what the perverts will do with them next.

So I feel that at this time of spiritual crisis in being an occasional fag-puffer, that I'll have to revisit the true meaning of being a social smoker. I'll stop buying them altogether and smoke other people's instead.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: LGV Driver - Category C or C+E

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This national Company that manu...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - OTE £30,000

£13000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Assistant

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Maintenance Assistant is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Newspaper stands have been criticised by the Child Eyes campaign  

There were more reader complaints this year – but, then again, there were more readers

Will Gore
 

People drink to shut out pain and stress – arresting them won’t help

Deborah Coughlin
A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?