Planet Fashion Fag, Helmut Newton-style

Gaspingly chic

The accoutrements of smoking are deathly cool


This article is taken from the March 2022 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issue for just £10.

This month’s style tip is a bobby bargain: a crisp tenner, or thereabouts, to look young, edgy and achingly nihilistic, with no negative results whatsoever apart from a slow and unpleasant death. But, then, isn’t life itself a slow and unpleasant death? One may as well look chic dragging oneself through it.

Smoking, man, it’s totally back. I know this because a 12- and 14-year-old informed me. Sucking nonchalantly on their death sticks, they observed: “Every primary school child over the age of 8 has a vape. Their parents may not know it, but they do.” I suppose this should have been clear from the array of paedo-chic flavours: a riot of popsicle peaches, bananas and berries. Although, hats off to a Yank variant called “Mother’s Milk,” obv.

A study funded by Cancer Research last year revealed a 25 per cent rise in 18-34-year-olds who smoke

I knew that a saccharine vibe prevailed as, a few years ago, a millennial invited me to suck on his vape at a party. Never not game for some bracing new come-on, I gagged on the horror of deep-throating a current bun. “For the love of God, man,” I cried. “Cinnamon,” he intoned dreamily, evidently from the My Little Pony-school of seduction. Still, the association works for some as a study by E-cigarette Direct discovered that 60 per cent of vapers reach for their e-snout immediately after intercourse.

Evangelists make much of the Public Health England and Royal Society of Physicians line that vaping is 95 per cent less harmful than cigarettes. However, in nippers, they give every appearance of being a gateway into the old coffin nails, then providing a convenient source of nicotine between French and double chemistry. 

A study funded by Cancer Research last year revealed a 25 per cent rise in 18-34-year-olds who smoke. That this occurred during a pandemic in which breathing became something of a fraught activity is the sort of ravishing irony mirrored by the popularity of smoking following the great flu epidemic of 1918 — that other Twenties that roared, puffed and choked.

Obviously, the drug-addled, kittenishly beautiful Euphoria posse — “vape girl”, right — are all at it. (“It’s not OTT, it’s true to life,” quoth my pubescent sources.) Meanwhile, popstrel Dua Lipa, 26, has become the poster Zillennial for appearing on Insta fag-in-hand. However, it’s not merely the young. Gaspers are back on our screens in the hands of Shiv in Succession, Sylvie in Emily in Paris, and fashion fright Carrie Bradshaw, who sucks away on cancer tubes with new pal Seema in the unspeakable Sex and the City sequel And Just Like That.

Planet Fashion never really stopped puffing, eating being cheating and all that, meaning the accessories are to die for. Cartier’s lighters are sublime fetish objects (from £720,, its vintage numbers still more beguiling. Celine has lighter cases (from £290,, lighter-holder necklaces (from £420), and jazzy metal match boxes (from £670).

Over at Yves Saint Laurent one can purchase steel cigarette cases, in embossed black croc (£205, And, if one’s pocket money won’t run to these, there are black and white matchboxes “evoking the iconic cigarettes of the Maison Saint Laurent” at £10 a pop. Saint Laurent, of course, is the home of Le Smoking, the female tuxedo jacket of 1966 and ever onward (current approximation £1,890). God’s teeth, now I gaze at it, I crave one.

As to whether the current rash of micro-bags, suspended wallets and phone carriers is put to tobacco-toting purposes, the answer is clearly “yes”. Albeit, vapes get tucked under bra straps, ready to drag on during break. Where callow youths stow them I wouldn’t like to hazard.

People claim that cigarettes are addictive, however, accident waiting to happen that I am, I can’t seem to manage it. Perhaps it’s having lived through the Seventies when the world came fogged. If tobacco is the scent of a good time for the spring chickenish, it was once the scent of everywhere. 

Celine lighter case (from £290,,

I recall looking after a neighbour’s budgie that, when bathed, turned from green to blue, so tarred had it been. Its owner ran the local sweetshop, chugging away over acrid chocs.

My own grandfather, Dead Fred, got through 80-a-day, a feat I childishly imagined involved a fag between each finger. His wife once inserted gnarled hands in both folds of flesh about her mouth, pulling back her face to show us what she would have looked like sans smoking, provoking hysterical screams.

I shall sate my longings with Caron’s Tabac Blond, created in 1919, and the scent of flappers fagging it. Otherwise, I shall be forced to remain tragically unfashionable, tediously alive.

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