Buying Cigarettes
I came - I saw - I bought

Is smoking back in fashion?

Even though cigarette advertising is banned in the US and UK, that won't stop YSL trying to make its cigarettes look sexy.

They come in matte black boxes, and gold foil. There are no health warnings or off-putting photos on the packets, just the golden embossed words Yves Saint Laurent, and the YSL logo. These sleekly packaged cigarettes have been around since 1989, but a new advertising campaign has drawn fresh attention to them.

Tobacco advertising is banned in the US and Europe, but in Russia and Asia an advert showing a pale blonde model (above), wearing nothing but some large art deco earrings and extravagant eyeliner has recently been released. Crucially, the model has just taken a big puff on a fag, so her mouth is almost entirely covered by a cloud of smoke. Could it be that smoking is sexy again? Or should we be putting on our morally outraged faces?

YSL should be ashamed of itself. Even though smoking indoors is against the law in many of the world's major cities, "in fashion, it appears, the habit is still as fashionable as ever." So sniffed Tamara Abraham, writing for the Daily Mail. Abraham quoted from YSL's "promotional script": The "philosophy" of YSL cigarettes is about "Creating a sense of appeal to female vanity and thereby making the woman who chose to smoke Yves Saint Laurent cigarettes more attractive than one who smokes another brand or more attractive than a woman who did not smoke at all." Abraham left it to Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health, to say: "YSL should be ashamed of itself." And "Sadly in Russia and many parts of Asia young people are not yet protected from such tobacco industry tactics... glamorous brands like YSL can be used to suck them into an addiction that will lead to death and disability."

Glamorous smokers. There are two types of smokers in this world according to Nicole Fabian-Weber at The Stir blog: "Glamorous ones and dirt bags." What makes a glamorous smoker? "Oh, I don't know, how about being really tall and skinny, wearing awesome clothes, taking long, languid drags while simultaneously talking on your iPhone. And most important of all, smoking Yves Saint Laurent cigs. Everyone else is a dirt bag." Looking at the advert and packaging for the YSL smokes, Fabian-Weber cried, "It's so chic. So luxe. So... not me. But... could it be? If I buy YSL cigarettes, it could. If you saw me on the corner puffing away on a designer cancer stick, would you stop and think to yourself, 'Daaaamn, that is one cool lady!'? You definitely would." Fabian-Weber was joking ("Everybody knows, if there's one thing always out of style, it's smoking.") But there are glamorous smokers everywhere who would take her seriously.

The irony is... Jasmin Malik Chua at the Ecouterre blog noted, "We don't have to tell you about the dangers of tobacco, the gaucheness of nicotine-stained teeth, or the idiocy of self-induced lung cancer and heart disease." So she turned instead to discuss the late Saint Laurent: "Ironically, in a 1968 interview, Saint Laurent himself admitted he didn't smoke his eponymous cigarettes, claiming not to 'like the flavor'."

You can't deny it, they are pretty cigarettes. Kerry Pieri at the StyleCaster blog began with a caveat: "I am in no way here to promote smoking." "But," she continued, "as an aesthetic person, you have got to appreciate how pretty these YSL cigarettes look. That black and gold, it's like the Opium bottle in cancer-causing form." Many fashion houses have licensed their names for cigarettes over the years: Givenchy, Versace, Pierre Cardin, Christian Lacroix and Cartier have all been in the tobacco game at one point or another. It's nothing new but part of a well-established, and apparently effective, business model. "I don't want to buy them to smoke them," concluded Pieri, "but I do kind of have a Pavlov's dog-esque response to that pretty YSL logo. Oh, marketing."

Published: Friday, May 20, 2011

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