Wednesday, May 21, 2008

. . . like a cigarette should.

Smokers are loyal to their brands. I mean this is the very reason that the cigarette companies marketed to children for so long, right? In fact:
I’m not going to attempt to rationalize my bad habit in this particular post, so spare me the lectures, but I do want to explore my choice of brands. I started smoking when I was in high school. I grew up in a small town that revered military service, and I really looked up to the old WWII-era GIs, who were ubiquitous in my childhood. Most of those GIs were smokers, and most of them smoked Lucky Strikes. When I (illegally) purchased my first pack of cigarettes, I bought a pack of non-filtered Luckies, of course. Joe fucking Camel didn’t have anything on my grandfather, who stormed Anzio beachhead, or my dad’s high school principal, who was a Bataan Death March survivor. Lucky Strikes came in a little square soft-pack, and I thought the packaging was pretty cool. I didn’t know better, so I thought all cigarettes tasted and smoked like a Lucky Strike. Fourteen years later, I still love a lot of the Lucky Strike “mystique” – the packaging, the history, the name – but it wasn’t until I went to college that I realized that there’s a reason Lucky Strikes (and Chesterfields, and Pall Malls) no longer command the market share the once did: they’re just not good.

In one of my first weeks at college I found myself at a fraternity party during pledge week. I was out of smokes, so I bummed one. That cigarette happened to be a Marlboro red. Compared to a non-filtered Lucky Strike, the Marlboro was exceptionally smooth, mild, and pleasurable. It was love at first drag. I bought a pack of reds the next day – and it came in a box! A box that I could put in my front pocket and not crush. The Marlboros had filters! No more tobacco falling onto my tongue. All in all, they were a superior product.

Now, folks will tell you that Marlboro reds are pretty high-up on the “harsh” scale, and I guess they’re right, but coming from where I came from, I had the opposite impression of them. Most smokers I know these days smoke some sort of light cigarette, but I’ve never been able to smoke lights. It sort of feels like I’m sucking on a straw when I do so. My lungs actually crave a little harshness (for that matter, I drink my coffee black and don’t have much of a like for sweet cocktails). An unintended consequence is that when folks see you smoking a red, they assume that you’re serious about your vice. I’m not one for the “Marlboro Man” appeal, but I’ll take it if you want to give it to me.


Andi said...

I like cocktails with little umbrellas, cream and sugar in my coffee and menthol in my cigarettes. Thank gawd I don't have to be a man!

Anonymous said...

Umm menthol cigarettes. Nothing like a deep voice early in the morning. Camels are so much better, cotton filter and all.

Jamm-o-rama said...

I actually started out with the reds. I did like them but everyone I knew smoked them too and my cigs would always turn up missing so I decided to switch to the 100's. Others began to switch right along with me so I finally went to the Virginia Slims which my boyfriend's mom smoked. Needless to say no one jumped on that wagon and I still smoke them today.

Andi said...

That's what I like about menthols. Even desperate people won't bum smokes from me. I've had street people turn down a smoke from me when they found out it was menthol!