The Australian government recently banned brand packaging on cigarette packs. All the packs would now be devoid of logos, colours, and will come in a standard colour, with larger spaces for warnings against the effects of smoking. The move is targetted at reducing surrogate advertising, and dissuading youngsters from picking up smoking. Quite a sensible move, if you ask me.
In India, most youngsters pick up smoking in order to ‘belong’. Most gyaan-givers attribute it to ‘peer pressure’, but the actual reason is that it is an act of rebellion. Our parents warn us against it, and we know it is harmful, and it becomes a rebellious act. The peer pressure bit comes later on.
While growing up, cigarettes had an impact on me in a different way. There was the Benson and Hedges 92 World Cup, and the Wills World Cup 96. The names were associated with cricket, and hence, a part of my early memories as well. There was no restriction on cigarette ads, so every English magazine had an ad of a happy, relaxed couple, with the tagline ‘Made for Each Other’. There was also this Four Square ad, which showed Sanjay Manjarekar, Venkatesh Prasad and Nayan Mongia winning a boat race, using bats instead of oars (the only time they did anything useful with the bat).
The first cigarette I smoked was Wills Flake, encouraged by a driver to try it. I hated it, and had an evil taste in my mouth for an hour. Later, he gave me a Gold Flake, and it felt heavenly compared to what I had earlier. Since then, it has stuck.
My only case of brand loyalty in this age of multi-product invasion, is Gold Flake, chhota. It was moderately priced – neither expensive like the big ones, nor cheap enough for someone to politely deny it when you offer them. And the taste! Neither the rough ‘fuck my lungs’ taste of Navy Cut, nor soft flavours like clove, eucalyptus, mint, menthol, strawberry, banana and amla. Just the right blend!
I first flirted with Gold Flake working in the Call Centre. There would be ten of us, and one Gold Flake, chhota. In the break, it would go around, one puff per person, and we were ready to go back and kick some American ass. Since then, it has remained with me.
Another great part of Gold Flake, chhota, is that it is ubiquitous. From Jammu to Kanyakumari (Arundhati Roy fanboy, me!), and from Lakshwadeep to Andaman Nicobar, any part of India you go to, you will find it. I know some people who smoke Classic Regular, and have to travel five kilometres because every shop doesn’t stock them. Not with my Gold Flake.
I get exasperated with the way non-smokers persuade others to quit smoking. It’s almost as if smokers are a dumb, hedonistic lot, who are thick in the head. We do know of the harmful effects, but then, there is something you guys don’t know. A cigarette is more than a roll of tobacco. You just don’t smoke your cigarette, you live with it. And walk to your death with it.
A cigarette stays with you through thick and thin. When you are celebrating something special, or just going through the motions (both loose and tight). It is with you when you come up with ideas, when you are inspired, and when you are dejected. It is a part of you, your personality, and it’s also the one who stays with you in your most private moments – in the loo.
Gold Flake has been my true GF, it has been faithful to me, and I have rarely cheated on her. I can’t explain the feeling on seeing the gold and maroon pack after a tiring day.
Won’t be the same if it came in a white, drab box, would it??