Review: Cigarettes

Cigarettes may cause premature death but which brand is the best companion to your short, short life?

Benson Camel cigarettes Gauloises Lucky Strike Marlboro smoking

Cigarettes give you cancer. If you’re dumb enough to not know that then you probably deserve to die. As such The Tab doesn’t want to encourage you to smoke if you don’t already. Let’s face it though, if you want to smoke you’re going to do it no matter what anyone tells you. Smoking just plain looks cool. You have a little stick of fire in your mouth and you breathe smoke. It’s a commonly known fact that both men and women have repressed desires to fuck dragons and smoking taps into this desire.

Smoking may cause infertility, but if you don’t smoke you probably won’t even get laid in the first place. Smoking’s back in vogue in a big way thanks to Mad Men as well, and you too can be as badass as Don Draper with the simple addition of a pack of Lucky Strikes. With this in mind we got some of our writers to defend their chosen brand and make a case for why it’s the early-route-to-death-du-jour.

Marlboro Light
If this is your particular brand of choice, then you’ll always be able to find someone to bum one off, since these are the universally-favoured choice of fag of the unimaginative, who trotted into a newsagent aged fifteen and blurted out the first packet they could think of. Everyone thought of it, ergo everyone smokes them. To be fair, they are smooth and I can definitely puff my way through a twenty pack in the smoking area of any given pub or club on any given evening or afternoon. They don’t do much for that first-fag-of-the-day nausea though, I have definitely turned up at a number of 11am supervisions fighting waves of nausea; during one attack, my friend cheerfully pointed out that I must be pregnant if I was getting morning-sickness. I assured her it was just Marlboro Light-related malady. Ultimately, a Marlboro Light is like your first long-term boyfriend: a bit unexciting, prone to make you gag periodically (“I bought you a Clinton Cards bear because its face reminded me of yours!”) but a safe pair of hands that don’t make you feel like you’re getting cancer right now.

Camel Blues
When I was seven I found out that these cigarettes existed and they forever held a mystical place in my soul. The fact that they have an camel on the packet makes these cigarettes perfect for animal lovers and Arabs alike. I am in the first camp, but from the first inhalation these charming cigarettes make you feel like you’re in the latter. They blend a fine combination of sand and mud into a mysteriously dusty flavor, and the mundane scene of waiting for a bus or staring at your friend’s relatively unattractive face over a pint fades away as you inhale deeper. By the time you exhale you’re standing in Giza, and your friend has become Princess Jasmine. The only thing that lets these cigarettes down is the occasional harshness such a flavor brings to the texture of the smoke, which can leave you feeling parched and in search of a desert oasis.

Aesthetically very pleasing: smoking one of these slim, white and elongated cigarettes makes me feel as though I am drinking coffee on the Left Bank, scanning a copy of their publishing namesake (en Francais, obviously) and offering philosophical profundities (‘Je fume, donc je suis’). Admittedly, they’re not for lads – these cigarettes effeminise you exponentially according to every drag taken and their shape may be elegant, but it also makes them rather difficult to mainpulate: do not attempt when drunk. (Although maybe that is the result of the tester’s woeful hand-eye co-ordination.) Occasionally, one can detect a slightly unpleasant chalky taste but that might be a placebo effect conjured purely out of the fact that they bear a striking resemblance to those frail sticks of chalk that your little sister gets in her ‘goody bag’ at a petrol station café complete with a chalkboard that is probably depriving an African child of an education. But if you’re in the market for a sophisticated, oh-so-French cancer stick, Vogues are the obvious choice. If a Vogue were a person, she’d be Audrey Hepburn. Petite, beautifully-formed and stylish.

As has just been pointed out Vogues are rather effeminate. How then do you capture their Gallic charm without looking like the Marlboro Man’s tea lady? This is where Gauloises step in. Gauloises capture that divine French insouciance like no other cigarette. Nothing says ‘Vive la Révolution Mother Fucker!’, like smoking these filterless beauties. You can get filtered versions these days (sigh) but putting a filter on a Gauloises is like putting a condom on before sex: sensible but rather ruins the moment. Do you think the men and women who stormed the Bastille bothered with a filter? Sit down with an unfiltered Gauloises, a black coffee and an open copy of L’Etranger in one hand and you will get laid in a matter of seconds. Need more proof? I just put Gauloises into Google and this is the eleventh image that came up.

Golden Virginia
Nothing says “classic value” like a Golden Virginia roll up. They’re up there amongst the value greats, like Asda supermarket, or buy one get one free deals on Chicken Kievs. Unlike some other rolling tobaccos, Golden Virginia maintains a moist texture inside the packet, having a consistency like small bits of wet mud, a theme that is taken further with the taste of the smoke itself. Each inhalation suggests a cross between a fine cigar and a wet fart. From within these deep flavors rises higher tones, forming an occasional sugary bitterness that spreads throughout the entire mouth and throat. Roll ups by their very nature are more temperamental than their straight counterparts. If one holds a rollie in their mouth too long, their is the chance you might bring some skin off with it when you remove it from your lip, leaving a delightful taste combination of blood and shit behind. Then there is also the problem of rolling them for those who are not as skilled as myself. But for almost a quarter of the price of normal cigarettes, you can’t complain.

Benson & Hedges (Gold label)
Cheap as chips and if you’re in the market for an older (by older, read pushing 60), tramp, these are your brand – favoured by rasping, nicotine-soaked men who pass the monotony of time before the grave with pint after pint and who are not just pushing 60 but have probably been on 60-a-day since they could walk. However, if you’re not in the market for an older tramp, steer clear. Never has the term ‘cancer stick’ been more appropriate. Never have the images on the backs of the packs been more indicative of what your (pustulating, tar-corrupted) throat, lungs and mouth will look like after about two weeks on these babies. Even smoke a few on a night out and you will wake up with what feels like emphysema the next morning. And if you whip them out on a night out, even the most seasoned of smokers will give you a wide berth. “Shit, man. That stuff is heavy. I mean, I’ve been known to experiment in my time, but B&H Gold?” “Fuck, let’s get out of here. I don’t want to be around when this shit starts going down.”

Lucky Strike Blue
These cigarettes are cool. Really cool. If you’re smoking to look cool then you should smoke these. With only one flash of the packet, you’ll be finding yourself knee deep in pussy. They also taste pretty fucking nice as well. Each inhalation brings with it a sugary combination of different spices, with the occasional low tone comparable to rhubarb. The Blues are a smoother variety to the original Lucky Strike Red, and boy are they smooth. You can chain smoke a whole pack of 20 in one session and still find yourself able to breath, which is perfect if you want to look impressive yet still be able to copulate without moaning like Darth Vader with a punctured wind pipe. Perhaps the only negative is that everyone wants to be your friend when you’re out on the street smoking these, and discerning those who genuinely like you becomes a harder task than usual.

Marlboro Reds
I smoke Reds not because I think Lights are for pussies. They are but this isn’t why I smoke them. Lights have half the nicotine as Reds but with all the cancerous crap. That means you have to smoke double to get the same effect. You have to pay double the price and expose yourself to double the crap to get the same hit. And all because you think that Reds ‘taste too strong’? Seriously man the fuck up and grow some balls. Lights are a hangover from Cigarette Companies trying to market their shitty cancer sticks at women in the 50s. Enough of that though, as let’s face it, there’s no more iconic cigarette packet than the Marlboro Red. It’s like Coca Cola only slightly less healthy. Reds demonstrate to people that you actually smoke and you’re not just some artsy prick jumping on the band wagon.

Mayfair are what my friends and I used to smoke, spraying perfume with liberal abandon and hiding burn marks in our pashminas when we got home. Now, students apparently so poor that those pennies really count, for some of us they are once again the brand of choice. The brand’s market is the signet-ring wearing men at the bookies who drink in the pubs we were served in, aged 15, and I suppose that’s where the love affair began. The dark blue box with it’s large low price proclamation on the cellophane is fundamentally uncool. Instead, the message is I smoke Mayfair because I need to know where the next fag is coming from, the ends of my Jack Wills trackies are torn to shreds because I am edgy, and if all goes to Plan B (Plan A is what Daddy wants me to do) I will soon have an expensive coke habit funded in 70p savings I made per packet over the years. Decades down the line they are the cigarettes we will be smoking, outside the pubs with peeling paint as we get drunk on cheap vodka and chat up men with Alsatians in Umbro, once again.

Marlboro Bright Leaf
Bright Leafs (or should that be Bright Leaves I’m not sure?) are designed for real smokers. The packet is black. This is because black means death and real smokers accept that they are going to die. Reds only imply blood which could mean death but could also mean a heavy period depending on how you look at it. They not only make you look more hardcore than Red smokers, however, they also taste fantastic. The Tobacco is Virginia Blend, which apparently 91% of UK smokers prefer and when were the British public ever wrong? If cigarettes still had adverts I’m sure these would have a decrepit Tony the Tiger announcing ‘They’re Grrrreat!’ through his electronic voicebox. If this wasn’t enough they’re cheaper than other Marlboro brands and have a whole beautiful milligram of Nicotine in each Cancer stick.

Silk Cut
Fans include Tom Stoppard, Robbie Williams and Bridget Jones, which just about sums them up; they are the cigarettes for the effeminate, the ex-addict and someone trying to live life the right way. Scientifically, the filter has bigger holes in it so the smoke mixes with air and then is better for you, and 25% of the tobacco is a cellulose substance. In real terms, they make you look like a girl and taste of air. Not smoke and air, just air. Smoker ‘Sharpy’ says on an internet chat-room of Silk Cut Silver, ‘There is no initial hit to the back of your throat, no pleasant light headedness and lets be fair – the only thing that associates these with 'real' cigarettes is that fact that they are the same price.’ In fact, I reckon they are just an expensive joke by the makers of those chocolate cigarettes. Back in their glory days the brand had all the glamour of fast cars and the high life, and for the older generation the white and purple might still have that sex appeal but for the youth of today, their reputation is, well, flaccid.

So there we have it ladies and gentlemen: plenty to get your yellow teeth into. If you still haven’t been converted, however, and remain unconvinced by all our talk of nicotine and premature death, we’ve left the last word to Mr. Bill Hicks.