Cigarette brand stereotypes?
May 5, 2005 4:05 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for anecdotes & observations regarding stereotypical cigarette brand choices.

--"Hip-hoppers favor Kools, while the Punks are into Parliaments these days".
--"The average Virginia Slims smoker is in her early 40's, wears far too much makeup and has a slight drinking problem".
--"The brand most likely to be shoplifted by 12 year olds is Newports".

No basis in fact required.
posted by obloquy to Society & Culture (39 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Never trust anyone who smokes Export A Greens.
posted by docgonzo at 4:13 PM on May 5, 2005

American Spirit cigarettes give you organic lung cancer
posted by matteo at 4:16 PM on May 5, 2005

Matteo: LOL

Last i heard, crusties choose Top.
The hippy's i rolled with rolled BaliShag...
Metalheads like the marlboro man, for some odd reason (he seems to represent everything the counterculture hates, though i guess he is independent).

cheapskates smoke Monarchs.
cheese eating surrender monkeys smoke gauloises

and "teh docgonzo" smoked Dunhills.

posted by schyler523 at 4:21 PM on May 5, 2005

The stoners buy Phillie Blunts.
posted by mischief at 4:25 PM on May 5, 2005

Goths smoke cloves.
posted by Specklet at 4:32 PM on May 5, 2005

Worked in a "gift shop" (read: head shop) for a few months after my high-school graduation. It was in the club/booze district, but during the day, so the clientele was (is) by no means an average of anywhere's population.

- The around-drinking-age boys (of any race) who listened to hip-hop, rap, or R&B all smoked Newports. Their girlfriends always wanted Marlboro Menthols or Parliaments.
- The hippies with Guatemalan clothes, dreadlocks, dogs and/or kids liked American Spirits. They also rolled their own.
- The demi-hippie slackers who bathed regularly and shopped at thrifts liked Camels.
- Candy-raver types smoked Bidis. So did high-school kids who'd just turned eighteen and wanted something legal that "looked like a joint." (They thought it was rolled in pot leaves. I never told 'em otherwise.) Strawberry was the most popular flavor.
- Goths always wanted Djarum Blacks. Guess it clashed with their clothes.
- I never met a straight man who smoked 100's.. except for the 40+ year old amateur wrestler who was bumming from his wife.
- All the bikers, military, and ex-military smoked Marlboro Reds. They were also most likely to share theirs out. Didn't even think about it, they'd just open up the new pack and hand one to anybody around.
- The customers who came in asking about techno nights and/or coffeehouses would get the more obscure namebrands like Kamels.

Yeah.. I knew from watching 'em enter the place what kind of cigs they wanted. Useful skill.
posted by cmyk at 4:45 PM on May 5, 2005

I also used to work in a convenience store.

- The old grizzled men outside the convenience store in their pickup trucks smoke Lucky Strikes unfiltered.
- The really poor people in my town smoke whatever that generic three-letter brand is.
- Hippies roll their own, where I was they used Drum.
- Most people I know smoke American Spirits now and used to smoke Camel Lights.
- My Dad smoked Larks and I never knew another person who smoked them.
- My Grandma smoked Bel Aires and I thought of those long skinny cigarettes [Virginia Slims &c] as being cigarettes that old ladies with a lot of lipstick smoked
- Kids in high school smoked Menthols.
- Snooty American liberal arts college kids smoke Dunhills or Gauloises.

on preview: I forgot about Bidis, the ultra snobby kids in the liberal arts college I went to smoked those
posted by jessamyn at 4:54 PM on May 5, 2005

So, there's a bar catacorner from my apartment that serves primarily Black clientele. Well, one night at around twelve, I run out of cigarettes. Since everything else withing a few blocks is closed, I decide to hit the bar's cigarette machine.

Now, I've never been in before (honestly, because it didn't seem like a place where my pasty white ass would be welcome). But, I need cigarettes, so I walk in the door, walk up to the bartender, and ask for change for their cigarette machine.

Having gotten that, I turn around and scrutenize my cigarette choices, expecting the standard assortment of brands. No. Literally every slot was filled with some sort of menthol nast--Newport, Kool, Parliament Menthol, Marlboro Menthol (Regular, Light, and Mild), and about a dozen others I don't remember--except for one slot of Marlboro Medium 100's.

I bought the Marlboros.

So, I'm going to go with: gangsters smoke menthol.

(Now, hold on a moment before you flame me for being racially insensitive and equating "Black" with "gangster". These folks really *are* gangters. And not just in how they dress. But, like in the they-sell-drugs-and-shoot-people-on-my-corner sort of way. Likewise, while not everybody who frequents the bar is a gangster, there is a higher-than-average density of them there.

And, no, I'm not moving, despite the high lead concentration in the air. I like my apartment; and they've never done anything to me.)

On preview: I forgot to mention that, normally, I roll my own out of Drum tobacco. Not 'cause I'm a hippie, really, but because I'm poor. And, I'd rather smoke decent, but handrolled, cigarettes over USA or GPC.

(Also, I just figured out what the whole MeFi "on preview" thing is. I love it when I suddenly figure out long-standing curiosities totally from context.)
posted by Netzapper at 5:06 PM on May 5, 2005

The 3 letter cigs are GPC - Generic Pack of Cigarettes.

Basics are also for dirt poor college kids and others without money.

Benson and Hedges, Capris, and Virginia Slims are all smoked by old ladies with too much makeup.
posted by stovenator at 5:16 PM on May 5, 2005

Camels and Luckies are smoked by folks with retro sensibilities, like myself.

Marlboro is a white guy smoke almost exclusively. When I offered one to a black freind who bummed a smoke, he called 'em "cowboy killers."

Menthols like Newport and Kools are heavily favored by blacks and hispanics, although my dad is a 30+ year Newport man.

American Spirts are for hippies. 100's of any kind, but especially More's are favored smoked by old barbag type women, usually while sipping a plastic tumbler full of cheap gin. Galoises, Dunhills, and Gitanes are for art students and Eurotrash wannabes. Cloves are for hipsters and club kids and make you smell like baked ham.

Pall Malls and other unfiltereds are generally associated with bikers, rednecks, ex-cons and tough guys.
posted by jonmc at 5:24 PM on May 5, 2005

As long as we're being freely stereotypical, and no hard feelings:
I think the "black people smoke menthols" is almost a self-perpetuating stereotype. A rousing discussion could be had about how some black communities' self-segregation leads to perpetuation of such things. Or you could just say, "I guess they get it from their parents, same thing with white kids that smoke Camels." Anyway, I'm gonna dig an even deeper hole and point out that heavier, less attractive white chicks tend to smoke menthols, too. You know, the kind that date black dudes. Not the white trash welfare heavy unnattractive white chicks - they smoke Marlboros or some cheap cig.

Smokers who are "trying to quit" smoke Ultra Lights.
My friend's divorced mom smoked "Vagina Slimes" - Virginia Slims - or those really really skinny ones - Mistys, maybe? Truckers and good ol' boys in general get soft packs (and keep them in their shirt pocket), so do women who have those faux leather cigarette purses with the lighter holster on the side.
Goths and darker ravers smoke cloves - but only when someone is watching. Otherwise, Marlboro Lights.
I smoke Camel Lights, or nothing for about 2-3 weeks now. I got a cold just as I finished a pack, and swore off for the duration. But all this smoke talk makes me want to go get some. Augh!

(I hadn't heard "Generic Pack of Cigarettes" for GPCs. I call 'em "Geeps/Jeeps" or "Cheaps".)
posted by attercoppe at 5:54 PM on May 5, 2005

When I was in the 'states most smokers at my small liberal arts college smoked Camel Light. 'cool' frat guys and jocks tended towards Marly lights, as did some sorority girls. I actually got the gas station that everyone got their cigs from (hey, it was a small school in a small town) to stock American Spirits then people started shifting from Camel Lights to those. Menthol smokers tended to be from less affluent families, but would end up switching to Camels. I think where people came from also influenced what they smoked. GPCs (we used to call the Good People Cigarettes) were for the really poor kids. Stoners tended to smoke Winstons (esp. when they started advertising as organic or something).

I started out with Marly Reds (smuggled Reds were more common than other American smokes in Vancouver) when I went to school. Switched to Camels, then Camel Lights, then American Spirits. I'd often get Dunhill internationals or Export A Greens/John Player Specials (which I used to smoke in HS) and sometimes got a pack of Gitanes or Galouis or a pack of Yehayeuns (Double Happiness - from China).

These days it's mostly DuMaurier Kings and Dunhill/Specials. I'll get a pack ot JPS every so often.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 6:01 PM on May 5, 2005

I think the "black people smoke menthols" is almost a self-perpetuating stereotype.

Perhaps, but while I've known white menthol smokers, every black smoker I've ever known smoked menthols. Latins go about 50/50 in my experience. Merits are generally smoked by ex-drunks and ex-dopers for some reason. Chesterfields are generally only smoked by those over 70. Nows and Vantages are for former 1970's swinger types. Bull Durham, GPC's and the like are smoked by the dirt poor, and people overextended before payday.

This information is gleaned from 20 years of smoking and a stretch working behind the counter at a convenience store/newsstand.
posted by jonmc at 6:03 PM on May 5, 2005

Jax -- This may be a Wal-Mart brand. It's another cheap, generic, red-state cigarette.

In high school, the dark, indie, long-haired guys smoked Camels. That was probably because of their association with Tom Robbins' books. They seemed like a bad-boy cigarette; they weren't cool yet, since this was prior to the infamous "Joe Camel" marketing campaign and the repositioning of the brand as a young, club-scene cigarette.
They were just an old-school brand with a dusty, classic, noir feel.

My grandfather smoked himself to death on Lucky Strikes. My grandmother smoked herself to death on Benson & Hedges. My Mom smoked Carlton menthols until she quit (she was slender and quite attractive, so don't know what to say about that other than it was the 70s) and my Dad smoked Marlboro Reds until they quit. Definitely a manly, white-guy cigarette.

I started out smoking Marlboro Reds and Camels early on, interchangeably at first. Then went to Marlboro Lights as I became a more entrenched smoker, because it was a more feminine smoke and because Reds were just too strong.

Then, when my lungs began to ache palpably, I switched to Winston Lights. Strange that those haven't been mentioned yet; it seemed like around 2000, everyone I knew who had been a Marlboro Lights smoker (a lot of girls in their mid-20s) went to Winstons -- at the time they were being heavily promoted with a buy-3-get-one-free or get-two-packs-for-one deal. But then Winstons started to really play up their image as the NASCAR cigarette. Finally, I quit.

My brother now smokes Drum. A number of the indie folks back in high school and college smoked Drum, too, if they didn't smoke Camels. There's something independent and just slightly stage-y pretentious, in that late-adolescent way, about rolling your own.
posted by Miko at 6:16 PM on May 5, 2005

he called 'em "cowboy killers."

this is a perfect line for a future Tarantino movie script
posted by matteo at 6:22 PM on May 5, 2005

There are (or were) a few casinos (cards only) on and around the Bay Area peninsula that are frequented primarily by young to middle-aged asians. Every last one of them, to a man, smoked Marlboro Lights. I have no idea why.
posted by Jesus Fucking Christ at 8:23 PM on May 5, 2005

Actually, according to most accounts I've read of the Vietnam war, Southeast Asians were particularly partial to Salems. I have no idea why, since even by menthol standards, they're pretty vile.
posted by jonmc at 8:29 PM on May 5, 2005

When I used to smoke, I used to sing this little song as I lit up my favority brand:

"Win-stones, meet the Win-stones,
They're the modern smoking family..."
posted by moonbird at 8:49 PM on May 5, 2005

American Spirit cigarettes give you organic lung cancer

This had me doubled-over in a laughing/coughing fit.

Here are some stereotypes:
  • Anything menthol: Black people.
  • Anything clove: People either aspiring to look cool (goths, punks, indie kids, black-wearing college twits) or not accustomed to inhaling (newbs)
  • Capris/Virginia Slims: Women wearing 1980s shoulder pads and high heels, with too much perfume and makeup.
  • Benson & Hedges: Rockabilly fans and very old people (interesting tidbit: B&H were the first to come up with 100's--the really long cigarettes)
  • American Spirits: Compassionate liberals
  • Bidis: Chomsky liberals
  • Lucky Strikes: Car mechanics, war vets
  • Parliaments: People convinced they're trying to quit, usually aspiring upper-middle class twits
  • Marlboro/Camel: Your textbook, generic cigarette, for textbook, generic smokers.

posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:06 PM on May 5, 2005

Parliament Lights have been the de-facto scenester smoke in norcal for some time now (NEVER the regulars, always lights) -- chesterfield kings are making inroads, however.
posted by fishfucker at 9:20 PM on May 5, 2005

Soldiers in 'Nam smoked unfiltered Lucky Strikes. Make sure to light the end with the label! That way the Viet Cong can't track you by your American smokes.

Dave Chappelle: "Why do Black people smoke Menthol? Nobody knows."
posted by vito90 at 9:44 PM on May 5, 2005

*Sorority girls smoke Marlboro Lights, as do frat boys that "only smoke at parties" since they're usually bumming off said girls.
*Hippie kids roll their own.
*Burnout kids smoke Marlboro Reds.
*College students that aren't quite hippie (but dig the jam bands!) smoke American Spirits.
*Euro-wannabe snooty types smoke Parliament Lights.
*Coffeehouse types like cloves. Also people that "don't really smoke" like to bum cloves ("mmm tastes like strawberry!"), and frequently hack up a lung when they inhale too deeply.

I started out on Marlboro 100s and quickly moved to Reds, smoked those for about three years or so (got too harsh for me, I found menthol were better when we moved to a hot climate), then moved to Kool Milds which were my best friend's brand (smoked those for a couple years), then ended up with Virginia Slims menthol ultra lights (smoked those six years 'til I quit). The "blacks smoke menthol" stereotype held up in my experience; I took to warning people that I had menthols when they tried to bum off me and usually they would refuse if they were white.
posted by Melinika at 10:02 PM on May 5, 2005

Yeah American Spirits are the choice of otherwise completely healthy hippies.

I swear that in the first months after their introduction, everyone I knew misread the label "additive free" as "addictive free," as in, cigarettes you don't get hooked on.

Hilarity ensued! That is, if you call years of smoking funny ;)

All the trucker-hat wearing, Vice-reading hipster bimbos seem to be into Paliaments right now. Go figure. Last year it was Lucky Strikes. Bah. I'm too busy to keep up with people who are busy keeping up with Ashton Koochie.
posted by scarabic at 10:10 PM on May 5, 2005

Oh yeah, GPCs. We thought it was "Good Priced Cigarettes".

GPC = "Generally Pretty Crappy."
posted by scarabic at 10:14 PM on May 5, 2005

Black people prefer menthols.

Older white FedGov employees also smoke menthols.

Former Sovs and East Bloc people smoke Marlboro "Reds", because they were, being an American import, a status symbol during the Communist-era. To a lesser degree, this will be true of upwardly mobile third-worlders.

Younger French people smoke Marlboro Lights; their embassy employees purchase them at $10 a carton from the embassy commissary, and the cigs are imports which taste slightly more mild than American Marlboro Lights. Older ones smoke French cigs, again more mild than American smokes.

Indonesians smoke delightfully mild cloves, of several locally produced brands (also available, unsurprisingly, through their embassy).

Gays as a community do not seem, to my recollection, to have clear brand preferences.

Everybody will smoke "Reds" if they have to.
posted by orthogonality at 10:42 PM on May 5, 2005

GPC = "Gutter Punk Cigarette"
posted by jtron at 11:05 PM on May 5, 2005

Parliament Lights are definitely the emo/indie choice.
posted by painquale at 11:07 PM on May 5, 2005

I worked for a cigarette store and only black people bought menthols, except for a stray hippie every once in a while. This was guaranteed. White people stuck to non menthol.
posted by Dean Keaton at 1:39 AM on May 6, 2005

Indonesians smoke delightfully mild cloves, of several locally produced brands (also available, unsurprisingly, through their embassy).

They ain't so mild. And they're available all across the globe.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:49 AM on May 6, 2005

Gays as a community do not seem, to my recollection, to have clear brand preferences.

Portland has no good dance clubs, or at least back when I was interested in going to dance clubs it had none. The ones that sucked the least were all gay clubs, some of which it was handy to actually have gay friends to get into (Boxxes comes to mind). At any rate... I clearly remember several roving cigarette vendors and gay friends who relayed the following stereotype:

Benson & Hedges == Buttfucks & Handjobs

I feel dirty repeating that, no idea if it's regional, but I'd be curious if anyone else has heard the same.
posted by togdon at 8:45 AM on May 6, 2005

hmm - from my cigarette choices I appear to be a white female hippie goth from an affluent background with a liberal arts education.

I am actually not any of those things. Well I was a bit of a goth when I smoked cloves - but I was just smoking the same brand as my boyfriend and I do have a liberal arts education (where I picked up my Marlboro Lights habit)

I smoke Dunhills now - for no reason clear to myself and I do have to say I have never understood my people's obsession with menthol - I never could smoke them.

Oh and on topic - old ladies smoke Virginia Slims and 100's and hippies roll their own.
posted by Julnyes at 9:44 AM on May 6, 2005

Ex-Benson & Hedges 100 lights smoker. And straight! Why everyone doesn't enjoy the slow burning pleasure of a 100 I'll never understand. And thank fuck no one in the office smokes, or I'd be bumming one so quick right now it'd be amazing. This thread is killing me.
posted by Keith Talent at 10:30 AM on May 6, 2005

Yeah, black people smoke menthol and so do some working class Southern white people, especially older ones.
We always called Marlboros cowboy killers - and everybody will smoke them or has smoked them at some point.
Punks, bartenders and cynical hipsters smoke Luckys.
Liberals & intelletuals smoke Camels or Winstons.
Bank tellers & ladies who wear sneakers with business suits smoke Virginia Slims.
Pretty much everyone I know smokes American spirits but I must say that I once identified them as poser cigarettes. Now that I smoke them, well, what can I say? I live in Asheville. It's required.

Reading this has cracked me up - yet again, I'm easily classified. I smoked menthols in high school (and Larks - anything that nobody else smoked,) Camel lights in college & on & off for years, Basics when I was a starving single mom, and American Spirits now.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:36 AM on May 6, 2005

Well my observations are all in Canada, so they're hradly relevent to the thread. Except this:

Women switch to menthol when they're sick.

That has always struck me as completely non-sensical. But I've never smoked a cigarette, so it's all a little non-sensical to me.
posted by raedyn at 10:43 AM on May 6, 2005

American Spirit cigarettes give you organic lung cancer

Actually, there is some evidence that it is the radioactivity that comes from burning the pesticides used on tobacco that increases the risk of lung cancer for smokers. Since I can't get organic cigarettes where I live, my research into this scared me into quitting!

Also, I wonder which came first - the fact that black people tend to smoke menthols, or the fact that menthols are strongly marketed towards blacks?

As a teenage badass rebel, I smoked camel unfiltered. I would say those are the cigarettes of choice for reform school kids who think they're tough. People who just want to pretend they're smoking smoke Capris. Sorority girls, as it has been said, smoke Marlboro lights. And in France, a lot of people roll their own just because it's cheaper.
posted by hazyjane at 11:12 AM on May 6, 2005

Carnies smoke Alpines.
Mean old women smoke Benson & Hedges.
Nice old women smoke Capris or Eves.
posted by gatorae at 11:40 AM on May 6, 2005

There's always Capris, bitch cigarettes. They're about half the diameter of a normal cigarette and a bit longer. I used to buy cartons of them to bum to my friends (and I don't smoke). People will almost always take them.
posted by blasdelf at 11:38 PM on May 6, 2005

Why do Black people smoke Menthol? Nobody knows.
Some pdfs
posted by cosmonaught at 9:03 AM on May 7, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone-- just what I was looking for!
posted by obloquy at 11:45 AM on May 7, 2005

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