A ranking of cigarette packet pictures, based on their artistic merit

It’s 2017 and this is art now


Allow me to get misty eyed for a second. In years gone by, in smoking areas long gone, someone's cigarette aesthetic revealed a lot about, you know, their general vibe.

The tattered, faded GV, the well-travelled Camel, the elegant but frugal JPS. Oh, what you could glean from those wonders of everyday design.

Then, everything changed. Out with the old, in with the weird brown-y green. Now, the only way you could possibly express flair with your fag packet is through those weird off-putting pictures.

Don't get caught with a shit one. Let us guide you.

Woman with Infant – Family portrait

Artistic direction: The focal point of this composition is hard to determine. Is it the wisps of smoke? Or should we be drawn towards the child, who not only sports the makings of a mullet, but has learnt offensive hand gestures?

Besides – from the hair, to the coat, to the animosity – this is essentially the inevitable on-stage brawl at the Oasis reunion. 5/10

Does it put you off? Smoking adverts spend so long telling us that we're killing our sperm and hurtling towards impotence that having a child is a distant prospect, and not a particularly emotive one either. 4/10

Thematically rich, but an unfocused, ineffective deterrent.

No Hands, Dummy – Retrieved from Da Vinci's workshop

Artistic direction: Pre-smoking ban, this would have been a Genuinely Useful Contraption. Pressed up against the fruity, one hand hammering away on the buttons, the other bashing the side of the machine to knock loose some coppers, all whilst puffing away on your hands-free cig dummy.

It's a thought-provoking glimpse of what could have been, were smoking indoors still allowed. 8/10

Does it put you off? Simply put, no, because it's too funny. It looks like the giant villain from a DIY sci-fi flick. It's someone who's about to tell their mum to shut up because they're 11 months old know and they can do as they damn well please. People will buy cigarettes just to be seen with this. 1/10

Your pupils expand by as much as 600 per cent when looking at something you love – Abstract piece, origin unknown

Artistic direction: Purists will find much reason to quibble with this piece. The left hand side is dimly lit and a portion of the white of the eye is out of shot. Visually representing blindness is a challenge, granted, but one which has not been met here. 2/10

Does it put you off? Buy these cigarettes. You'll be in for a real good time. 2/10

Pessimistic Horoscope – Ash on ceramic

Artistic direction: Hardly out of place on a circa-2013 soft-goth Tumblr, this piece underpins a simple aesthetic with macabre evocation. Colour is used sparingly, with the gaunt hand the only thing punctuating the greyscale. However, the off-centre ashtray plays on the mind, and is the only reason to deduct marks from this masterpiece. 9/10

Does it put you off? Despite the attention to detail of this minimalist composure, its effectiveness is undermined. Surely you'd try to make this pattern with your own ash, over and over, until what should be a warning becomes a challenge. 3/10

My Fingers Smell – Side profile

Artistic direction: Suspect head cropping only adds to the raw, gritty feel of the image. A plain background draws the eye to the subject. It is our job to decide whether he has just dropped his mixtape or if there's some downstairs trouble. Middle of the road stuff. 5/10

Does it put you off? Seeing as the subject isn't in the worst shape, and truthfully has a pretty strong hairline, it's hard to see this as a fate to avoid. 3/10

“Somebody get this man a rollie" – Tableaux of agony and anguish, 2017

Artistic direction: Although clearly a homage to Ilya Repin's masterwork Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan, in which the Russian emperor, disconsolate and distraught, holds his dying son in his arms, this piece pales in comparison to the original. By eschewing oil and canvas for flash photography and a radiator, the soul of the piece is lost. 4/10

Does it put you off?It's 6am. The lights have come on, people are leaving, but your friend won't budge. He's simply had too much. The only thing that will entice him from his stupor is the promise that you'll roll him one while you wait for the taxi.

Camaraderie, comfort, relief from hard times. These are the reasons people smoke. This reminder of such times is putting nobody off. 2/10

Nothing That Some Grills Won't Fix – Dental diagram

Artistic direction: Without the prompt that this piece depicts a mouth, the audience would be none-the-wiser. It's unclear whether the black bits are just some puy lentils that have decided to stick around for the ride, too. 3/10

Does it put you off? It is grim, but in the year of our Lord two thousand and seventeen, the real reasons for quitting smoking aren't the grotesque visions of it being what will eventually kill you. Something has to.

No, what turns people away is the poverty, the stale smell, and the constant half-cold. 5/10

Butterfly Back – Sculpture

Artistic direction: It's hard to make out just what this is. With modern art, that's no hindrance.

After contemplation, it becomes clear that the top left corner is the arm, whilst the two protrusions are the back, opened up to gain access to the lungs.

Yet, for something essentially so literal, what is remarkable is that before you know quite what it is, the imagination runs rampant. 7/10

Does it put you off? At a glance, the abstract imagery is more intriguing than off-putting. Only after a time does the horror of the image grab an observer. 7/10

That's Not Gum – Partial face portrait

Artistic direction: Gone are the more loosely-defined themes of the previous piece. They make way for a brutal, true-to-life realism that shocks and repulses in equal measure. Everything about this picture is gross. 3/10

Does it put you off smoking? Yes. It's gross and graphic and cigarettes go in your mouth, which is what this is of. 9/10

Piercing Stare – Close-up portrait

Artistic direction: The closeness of the angle and the direct stare draw in any dispassionate observer. Flair and vibrant colour are not needed – the emotion of the piece speaks for itself. A bleak and effective piece. 7/10

Does it put you off? Emotionally resonant as the portrait is, it's not a resonance which is immediately linked to smoking. Instead, it's simply a sadness by association that discourages the smoker. Every cigarette grows increasingly sad, until finally the will to smoke withers. 6/10

Turning Point – An ambiguous scene

Artistic direction: Subtle interplay between the bed-bound subject and the concerned relative captures the observer. Honed composition offers a snapshot of a moment, and it is for us to attach meaning. It seems to be a turning point, but what? The abandoning of hope, or the start of recovery? A feat of imagery. 8/10

Does it put you off? Here, vagueness works in favour of the piece. Uncertainty over the future is brought into stark focus, and we are forced to think of those around us. Another perspective, a better way. 7/10

A Familiar Figure – Identity unknown

Artistic direction: More immediately bleak than the previous piece, this goes heavy on the greys to conjure a powerful sense of dread. It's uncluttered and uncomfortable to look at. 5/10

Does this put you off? Countered by the dulled palette, the emotion of this piece is present but not as potent, at least to the casual observer. On extended viewing, however, it sinks in. 6/10

Go forth into the world. Give up your bad habits. But if you don't, at least bear this in mind.