Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

A Chronological History Of Cigarette Smoking, By Brand

Parliament Lights, 1986: The First. Smoked on the train tracks on the way home from school, after we ran into a friend's older brother who had a pack. I am proud to say that I toughed it out and only coughed once, although this still does not diminish the embarrassment of having one's first cigarette be a Parliament Light.

Camels, 1986: Look How Bad I Am. When we speak of Camels here, we speak of filterless Camels, smoke of prison inmate and off-track betting habitue alike. Chosen both as an attempt to look harder and an obvious overcompensation for my guilt over the Parliament thing. The next year or so would find the brand interchangeable with Lucky Strikes and Chesterfields, also unfiltered. I seem to remember these as being the last packs I was able to buy in cigarette machines, which were already starting their slow march towards extinction.

English Ovals, 1987-1988: Family Tradition. When my father, who had given up smoking upon my birth, found out that I had picked up the habit, he evinced a combination of disappointment and resignation, but he was also enthusiastic about these sweet unfiltered American classics, which were his favorite brand during his lung-damaging years. For a while they were mine as well, although I do remember a brief flirtation with Player's Navy Cut.

Sher Bidis, 1988: A Shameful Summer Indulgence. I was young, what do you want from me? I still blush when I recall this era. It was only two months though. Best not to think about.

Gauloises/Gitanes, 1988-1993: The Age Of Pretension. They were dark. They were strong. They were French. They spoke of exoticism, of cosmopolitan ways. They were absolutely brutal, "but so is life," said the impossibly precious teen. (Also known as the years of terrible breath.) I smoked more of these than I (or my eventual pulmonary specialist) care to consider, but wow were they great at the time. I think a few puffs off of one now would knock me on my ass, but, ah, youth. I generally preferred Gauloises, since the Gitanes packet looked like you were carrying around condoms with you, but either would do. The cigarettes I still dream about when I dream about cigarettes.

Basic, 1993: The Frugal Year. Ah, generic cigarettes. How many more drinks was I able to buy because of the money I saved on you? Notable for marking my entry into the filtered cigarette category.

Marlboro Reds, 1994-present: The Final Cut. And so, I gave in and became the typical American cigarette consumer. Sure, I've bummed the illicit menthol when desperate. There was that brief period when I quit and gained 30 pounds (resuming smoking managed to take five of those off, so, you know, yay, me). I've smoked the occasional Nat Sherman at fancy parties. I'm not bragging or anything, I'm just setting the record straight. But if the last fifteen-odd years of my life have had one constant, it has been that red-and-white pack sitting on my dresser, an old friend ready to console whatever, whenever, a soothing hit of nicotine is needed. Which is fairly frequent. In fact, right now would be a good time. Anyway, consider yourselves caught up.

Photo by Rick Phillips, from Flickr.


58 Comments / Post A Comment

Sorry but I've got to quit you. All the best over the next few short years!

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

Camels all the way (once I graduated from pilfering mom's Benson & Hedges), largely due to Still Life with Woodpecker.

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

@SidAndFinancy It's true that "CHOICE" reads the same in the mirror!

graffin (#9,588)

Do you hate your lungs and health?
How much do you spend a month on cigarettes?

allyzay (#321)

@graffin Do you like being a wet blanket?

Tully Mills (#6,486)

@graffin Mom? If so, can I borrow $5?

melis (#1,854)

@graffin Honestly? Yes, kind of.

davetar (#1,114)

Oh shit! Thank you so much for reminding us that smoking is bad for your health and expensive. I FORGET SO OFTEN.

graffin (#9,588)

Do you know what else is bad for you? Sarcasm

melis (#1,854)

@graffin So are sentence fragments.

LondonLee (#922)

My first was a Rothmans one afternoon sitting in the park with some mates from the Sixth Form. Smoked those for a while before making the transition to the 'cooler' Marlboro Reds (they were American! Cowboys smoked them! I was an art student!) then Marlboro Lights when they finally became available in England in the 80s. Those were my coffin nails of choice for over twenty years before I dropped a weight class to the Ultra Lights in a bid to convince myself I wasn't a "proper" smoker anymore.

Had a brief flirt with Gitanes myself too, lovely fags those were.

1985: One (1) Marlboro Light
1987: Camel Lights
1988, Fall: Camel Filters
1988, Winter: Camel bullets
1989, Winter: Lucky Strike bullets
1989, Summer – 1991, Fall: Skoal
1992 – 1995, Summer: Camel Lights (socially)
1995 – Present: Whiskey

Br. Seamus (#217)

@Clarence Rosario
1992-95: Whatever I could get. There were Virginia Slims and True involved; I'm not proud.
1995, for a few weeks: Rothmans
1995-98: Moonlight stuff, mostly House Blend. The classic teenage audience suckered by the offbeat branding.
1998-2006: Parliament Menthol Lights. Went to menthol.
2006-2011: Alternating Marlboro and Camel Menthol varieties; the novelty of the recessed filter had long since worn off.
2011 on: Those things'll kill ya, man. (alternately, goddammit Balk quit posting shit like this i'm twitching over here.)

Leon (#6,596)

@Clarence Rosario
2000 – Art School (NYC). I start w/ Camel filters. I start smoking in December, at a half pack a day by March, at which point I move to Drum because it's so cheap as to be almost free. I was living on $7 a day at this point – two slices of pizza, two forties, cigarettes.
2001 – Move to San Antonio to Study Philosophy. In an effort to be hard, and also cuz Band of Brothers, Lucky Strikes unfiltered for a month, then Camel Filters, cuz they're cheap down there.
2006 – Back to NYC. Back to rollies, but I have realized in my occassional handroll dabbling over the years that Bali Shag is much finer. Still my favorite rollie, though the quality has declined as the price has increased.
2009 – A real job! I can afford to move back to Camel Filters, though I'm now spending as much a day on smoking as I spent on all consumables at 18.
2010 – I try to quit. I restart at the Awl Commenter XMas to-do, because I'm wasted and nervous about meeting internet strangers, and also, I love smoking. I decide to go to Camel Lights this time.

migraineheadache (#1,866)

@Clarence Rosario
1997 – Marlboro Light
1997 – 1999 Newports, which was weird since I didn't take ecstasy
1999 – 2001 Triple 5s, Gitanes, Dunhills, etc.
2001 – 2007 Export-A Ultra Lights, except for that year when they were banned

@Clarence Rosario
birth – 2011: 2nd hand.

For Christ sake Alex, switch to vaping. All the cool kids are doing it.

SquarePeg (#1,098)

Off topic, but since this post is likely to pique her interest, has anyone heard from IBentMyWookie today? Curious about her take on the Conservative win in Canada.

oudemia (#177)

I started with a Parliament, too, and then visited with every possible pretentious choice after. ("Will she smoke long black cigarettes and reject the triune God?" Yes, please!) Luckys (it's pretentious if you're a tiny girl), Sobranies of any stripe, Gauloises, Gitanes, finally ending up with Dunhills in the blue box. Christ. Now I just stand next to other people and inhale.

barnhouse (#1,326)

The only unfiltereds I ever smoked were those utterly gorgeous Balkan Sobranies in the white printed tin. Delicious. They were quite light really. I don't think they even make 'em anymore.

The gold-tipped St. Moritz, those were glorious too by golly.

oudemia (#177)

@barnhouse I think, although I haven't looked into it in more than a decade, that Sobranie merely stopped selling in the states, once all the tobacco lawsuits started.

barnhouse (#1,326)

@oudemia Sic transit gloria mundi.

dado (#102)

My first was from a fourpack of Winstons that came in the accessory pack of my father's stockpiled C-Rations.

NinetyNine (#98)

I distinctly remember giving you shit for smoking Marlboro Lights. Or is that just your cold weather cigarette?

BirdNerd (#4,196)

1996-stolen Vantages from my uncle and newport lights from my sister's boyfriend
1997-camel lights
1998-2001 NEWPORTS
2001-2004 Marlboro lights
2005-2008 American Spirits
2009-present occasional bummed smoke of varying brand

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

@BirdNerd Best ever name for an album of cover songs:


C_Webb (#855)

Now I'm trying to figure out why I smoked Merits for 3 years, after Camels.

Matt (#26)

You and the cigarette machine's "extinction," Maura and Roy Rogers' "extinction," PLACES EXIST OUTSIDE OF NEW YORK CITY, YOU GUYS.

jolie (#16)

@Matt What are you even talking about? What?

sharilyn (#4,599)

1990 – Marlboro Lights, the smoke of choice for USC's fraternity row
1992 – Marlboro Red Filters, so I could appear "more real"
1993 – Shepherd's Hotel, moved to San Francisco and had to be more sophisticated
1994 – Old Gold (unfiltered), was too poor and tried to quit unsuccessfully, resorted to the cheapest smokes I could find.
1996 – Export A Lights, started working a real job again
2000 – Nat Sherman MCD – the aging hipsters' preferred smoke!

eggplant (#2,003)

Lewis Lapham smokes Parliament Lights. Is this good, or bad?

Neopythia (#353)

I was at the MGM Grand Foxwoods a few weeks back and lurking there in one of those labyrinthine service areas I spotted a working, stocked, pull lever cigarette machine. I should have taken a picture as I too thought them extinct.

lawyergay (#220)

I feel like Carltons have been marginalized by this history.

ejcsanfran (#489)

Despite some youthful experiments with True Menthol (WTF?), Benson & Hedges (advised only for sissies when in high school – foreshadowing!)and Marlboro Reds (butching it up, I hoped – fail), my first cigarette was a Marlboro Light. And over more than 30 years of bringing the cancer, it's all I can smoke, no matter how desperate.

I can spot a Marlboro Light in someone's hand from thirty paces… Then I have to decide if I want to beg them for one or just run across the street and buy a pack and go back to the bar – where I will then smoke all of them, even though I go back and forth with the quitting.

Also, circa 1990, a friend brought be a carton of Vogue cigarettes from the duty-free shop at the Helsinki airport. They were super-slim with a floral print on the filter. They tasted horrible, but looked fabulous!

jolie (#16)

Tarrytons and Vantage Lights in high school. I can't be the only one.

ejcsanfran (#489)

@jolie: My grandmother smoked Tareytons (remember the ads? "I'd rather fight than switch!" delivered by a smoker with shiner). Then she switched to Doral.

jolie (#16)

@ejcsanfran Oh cripes, yes 'Tareyton' – I knew that looked wrong to me. (Also I can't spell, generally. Thanks, fancy education!)

Also, I'm your grandmother.

ejcsanfran (#489)

@jolie: Sorry, was not trying to be a passive-aggressive spelling scold.

Also, grandma had a dowager's hump – what about you?

Elle (#7,022)

2005-2006: Djarum Blacks, because I was at an arts boarding school and this was the only way I could break the rules without risking expulsion and also I was an insufferable twat
2006-2009: Camel Lights, because the girlfriend did too
2010: A brief, shining six months where I managed to stay nicotine free through sheer dint of agoraphobia
Current: Whatever I can bum out of hopeful looks and the dollar trick.

melis (#1,854)

@Elle Oh, Djarum blacks. Your smooth crackle reminded me of how much money I was wasting on fake cigarettes. Did anyone else smoke Camel Crush? For some terrible reason, you could smash a small 'flavor ball' in the filter and switch from a regular awful cigarette to menthol. God, I loved them.

Brunhilde (#1,225)

@melis One of my friends smokes Crushes to this day. I bum them from her when I run out of American Spirit Menthols.

riggssm (#760)

1998 – Winston reds.

That is all.

(Coincidentally, my father smoked until I was 2: Winston reds. I found out in 2001 or so.)

davetar (#1,114)

Fuck yeah, Winstons. I've been smoking those for about two years now. Totally underrated cigarettes. So many people seem to think they're a bargain brand or something.

Made the switch after about five years on a Camel Filter/Light merry-go-round, and Lucky Strike Filters before that, which I would still get if I had ever seen them anywhere except NYC.

Sorry for not following the format.

oudemia (#177)

@riggssm A friend smoked Winstons on the theory that no one would bum such a thing.

scrooge (#2,697)

Was Ian Fleming the first novelist to brand-namedrop? (Bentley Continental, Dom Perignon, Beretta and, of course, Chesterfields). I rather think so.

Coolest name for a cigarette brand, I always thought, was State Express 555. Brands nobody's ever heard of? DuMaurier. Passing Clouds (oval in cross-section). Kensitas. Nelson. Sterling. Senior Service. Park Drive. (Sorry. My Dad worked for a cigarette company).

Maybe George Orwell was first, though. Woodbines, kind of a trademark for working-class Brits in his day, because cheap (and hence tiny).

barnhouse (#1,326)

@scrooge Remember that Irish novel Angela's Ashes, the guy McCourt made a terrific fuss over Woodbines in that thing. (Really kind of a sweet novel, very sentimental.)

#56 (#56)

2002- 2003 American Spirit Lights ("They're natural")
2004-05 Dunhill Reds (Shush it! Picked up a few cartons at Duty-free and felt like splurging)
2006-now Camel Lights (I do enjoy the horse races)

alorsenfants (#139)

Let's scare everyone:

1970-72 Tareytons and Marlboros
72-78 Viceroys
78-90 Newports
90-97 Sherman MCDs
97-03 Newports
04-present (with lapses back into MCDs when I was feeling expansive) — restaurant workers' smoke of choice!… Camel Lights/Blues

I know! shameful! Cigarettes will, it has been proven, take 5 years off your life? But people in my family live to be 100+, so I don't worry much.

P.S. I did quit completely for at least a non-sequential two years in the time mentioned above, and I hated all of that entire time the most. Merci.

Elle (#7,022)

@alorsenfants Holy fuckin' balls, can I borrow your genes when my time comes?

alorsenfants (#139)

Oh — and @ #56: I have on two occasions resumed smoking because I was at the f-ing track? How does one go there and Not Smoke?!!!

Who do you like on Saturday. I like Soldat, and… funny… current odds are 20-1?

#56 (#56)

@alorsenfants I like Pants on Fire so far (female rider!). I haven't really studied them yet. It's gonna be a day of decision.

alorsenfants (#139)

@#56 I'm going with Soldat long at 12-1, and Nehro, 6-1, more on the inside. Don't think Uncle Mo is going to show, and any Nick Zito horse that goes out these days — cf. Dialed In — manages to lose.
Bon chance!
Female rider thing is cute and all, but… (Not to say that women can't win — they can, and should more often — it makes a kind of sense?)

1980-81 Merits
1982 Winstons
1983-1993 Marlboro Reds
1994-2003: Marlboro Lights
2003-2004: Nicorette Gum (yes, I chewed it for over a year)
2005-present: coffee and overeating

Dianne Smallwood (#7,694)

started w/the benson & hedges (green pack) from my parents carton in the freezer. then the standard marlboro lights, until i was introduced to da 'recessed filter'. – …so id be da parli hunnards til further notice. -d.xo
Ed Note: $5.25/pk (on the rez) in these parts. don't hate.

C. J. Bradford (#9,317)

Ever since I started, Marb Red 100's. It's what my friend smoked in high school, and it'll be what I smoke until I quit. When I found out my sister started smoking I was so fucking pissed, but kinda proud that she went w/ red 100's. Then she got into Newport 100's and shit went to hell. But yeah, I will never stray from my brand (as long as I have them on me and arn't trying to bum a bogey)

grandpa27 (#804)

I remember Twenty Grands – 10 cents a pack.
I remember when Lucky Strike Green has gone to war.
I remember when Lucky Strike meant LSMFT,
I remember when I'd walk a mile for a Camel – not a cough in a car load.
I remember Johnny call for Philip Morris.

WroughtKadin (#11,718)

this is new brand for me…

Ring (#13,339)

Yeah, Marlboro Reds. These sticks have been popular all over the world. And who would ever forget the Marlboro commercial model riding his horse? Well, up until now, this has been my brand. I'm thinking of my health especially now that I already have two teenage boys but I just can't stop puffing at least a stick in a day. I'm crossing my fingers in hope that my lovely boys won't show up in front of me and ask for a light. I wouldn't know what parenting advice I would give them so they'd get a second thought on starting a puff on a cigarette stick.

thomas thomas (#269,800)

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