I have just finished examining one of these new “plain packaging” cigarette packs and it truly is a monstrosity. In that unerring way governments have of laying waste to everything of wonder they have cast their hex on this.
As a youngster I loved to gaze into Sylvesters tobacconists’ window on Surrey Street trying to decide which brand of ciggies to buy next. There were so many seemingly exotic brands from far off lands and all in beautifully colourful and picturesque packets tempting me to sample the wonders inside. At the age of fourteen I bought my first pack of ten cigarettes for half-a-crown (13 pence) from a slot machine and once hooked it was definitely the packaging and branding that encouraged me to explore further. I must have tried hundreds of rands over the years and quite a few fragrant pipe mixtures as well.
Those readers longer of tooth may recall that pre the 1960s, before tobacco was judged harmful, there existed a cornucopia of hundreds of different brands. Invariably the pack would exhibit gorgeous and evocative artwork to draw you into the smoke. Sadly much of this inspiration was lost in the sixties when the Government insisted on abstract non-targeted designs which gave rise to the familiar colour coded flashing and meaningless brand names we now have.
In the days before smoking was made a pariah activity, handing out the cigarettes was the ultimate social lubricant. A 50-pack of quality cigarettes made a universal and extremely acceptable business sweetener or Christmas gift.
All this has been lost of course but the sweet memories linger. The new packs with their obscene pictures of diseased body parts and brand names reduced to an almost indiscernible word of small print at the base of the pack is the final coffin nail.
That the government expects people to fork out two hard earned plastic fivers for what is essentially a few dried leaves and a bit of paper encased in a revolting looking packet is a wonder in itself. The illicit imports will presumably retain their old packaging formats and affordable prices and continue to sell extremely well. Which is surely not what the government intended.
R.I.P. the cigarette packet, a thing of beauty.
PS: After 40 years as a progressively more reluctant participant I smoked my last fag a decade ago.