Smoking is vile. The smell of it – on hair, on breath, on clothes – how I HATE the way it lingers; destroying my scented equilibriums, making me smell skunky, acrid and unclean. . The jadedness of it – that tired old nasty familiar odour.  It infuriates me. It obsesses me. It makes me debate whether I can at all face a night out when I know for a fact that it will be very smoky ( so many people in this part of the world have the habit – you can’t avoid it and that, combined with the fat from restaurants swirling in the vents making love to the coagulating smoke, can make you just want to tear your clothes off, and die. Sometimes, riding the train home stinking to high heavens, as a smell sensitive person I find it absolutely unbearable. )


I loathe the grubby, lingering staleness of cigarette smoke :  it smells demeaning;  gruff; trash can : it lessens you. The next day that grey and ugly smell on my clothes makes me feel so irritated and polluted it can almost make me hate the night before, no matter how good it actually was.





Foul !






And yet, despite all of this – bizarrely,  hypocritically, I must admit here that I do myself occasionally smoke- say three to five times a year, when the moment takes me – a habit I picked up in Italy, when I was in my early twenties when everyone around me was doing the same – preferably Indonesian Kretek clove cigarettes because they remind me of Kenzo Elephant-  but if I am drunk and the mood feels right I will partake; sometimes, no matter the rancid make ; enjoy a momentary clarity of vision and heart beating nicotined perception, gaze out at the stars and ill advisedly puff away but then almost immediately began to neurotically regret it and feel it trapped inside my lungs and artilleries. SMOKE moving within your own plush, wet,organic body. It’s so unnatural.I  can’t understand it, a killer, ultimately, at the end of the day.



Is smoking really all that pleasurable ? One after another after another? Why do so many do it ? As though it were the last pleasure on earth……..and I was wondering : how do you smoking perfumisti reconcile your desire, or the addiction for the bacco, and the simultaneous need to smell at your optimum best?  Do you have strategies to deal with the stench? I understand the whole fur coat and forties Lauren Bacall thing, that some perfumes might even collude with the smell of smoke quite beautifully – Habanita, for example: ( in that picture of me the other night taken at a club in Tokyo I was dressed up in a fake fur, ankle length Chinese men’s fur coat,wore vintage Rochas Mystere, and did indeed, stupidly smoke a cigarette). I understand the ‘glamour’ and the Gainsbourgian coolness but why do we human beings, at the end of the day, do these things, though? The smell is a repugnance, a stained and lingering banality, and an absolute antidote of beauty.



Today i smelled nice: all clean clothes, nuit de Cellophane, and my latest blood orange hand balm; bright in the night; ready to rock : I like to see old friends, and thoroughly enjoyed our conversations tonight by Yokohama station; but when i have studiously tried to create my own olfactory pleasing biosphere from the morning and then everything smells like greasy ass smoke shit I just want to toss everything single item of clothing – even my bag – afterwards  immediately into a dumpster and jump into a staggering waterfall -stark naked.




On balance, I sometimes wonder whether it is even worth it. I will sometimes cancel nights out for that very reason.



Because how can you truly care about smell and still be a smoker ?



i’m quite interested to know.


Filed under Flowers

32 responses to “smoking

  1. MrsDalloway

    Come back to the UK! Smoking banned in all public places including stations and even on the streets more people vape than smoke. You run into clouds of caramel or blueberries but it’s no worse than La Vie Est Belle.

    I haven’t smoked for more than 11 years, since I first got pregnant. The smoking ban postdated that and did help reduce temptation to start again – you can’t just light up in a pub.

  2. Mingzhe Wang

    This is such an interesting topic. I want to say that I feel almost exactly the same. I am usually super annoyed if I was eating dinner at a street side table and the eater next table decided to smoke, it usually ruins the whole dinner for me. I often dread it if I had to go out with friends to a bar known for its smokiness. At the same time, I do smoke a few times a year too, usually sharing a cigarette, as I can’t finish a whole one, with a close friend or a date. There is something romantic about it, and not necessarily in a sexual way, but the fact that you are buzzed from drinking, and you both go outside for a moment of intimate conversation and sharing a smoke is quite wonderful. I hate the smell of cigarette usually, but on rare occasion, when the smell is faint and that it mixes with other nice scent, it can be quite alluring too. I want to say that I absolutely hate it 95% of the time, and the other 5%, I find it strangely attractive (especially if it is associated with an attractive person).

    • We think alike.

      Fresh tobacco smoke almost IS sexy, and I know exactly the intimate moments of which you speak.

      The smell AFTER though………UGH

      I just had to hang every item of clothing outside in the freezing cold and it will stall smell WRONG tomorrow.

      And tomorrow I am going out with a friend, a smoker, in a smoky izakaya pub because it’s the only one open at that time of night kill me now

      • Mingzhe Wang

        Yuck! good luck! 🙂 It would mean laundry day the next day for me, but there is nothing you can do with your winter coat.

      • Mingzhe Wang

        What is the blood orange hand balm you speak of? I recently started using Aesop, and it smells lovely.

  3. Cigarette smoking in public places is banned where I live in the U.S. so there is no conflict with my perfumes. Previous to the ban, I endured smokers in restaurants, clubs, etc. I never smoked in my life but was used to the smell having had a Mom who smoked a lot and died from lung cancer at an early age. Now the only smoking odors I smell are from people who smoke weed. At least that is somewhat aromatic and doesn’t smell anything like cigarette smoke and ash.

  4. I do remember the days when I went to a restaurant and/or club and when I came home the smell of smoke reeked on my clothing. I can remember spraying my clothes with perfume in order to kill the smoke smell.

    • In Japan that would only make things worse. This is definitively a food culture – no one really seems to care about smell, and seriously, despite the existence of vents sometimes you STINK when you come out : you smell of meat, smoke, fried oils ……

      Of course, it being Japan, the food is of such unparalleled quality that you just have to go through it and toss everything into the washing machine. Sometimes, though, it just really gets to me.

  5. I don’t smoke, myself, but I know quite a few people who only smoke when they’ve been drinking a fair bit, and from what I hear the two go together irresistibly. I don’t think it’s strange at all that you have a cigarette now and then, N. (especially in tandem with alcohol); I’m sure at the time it’s an in-the-moment sybaritic pleasure of sorts, which squares quite nicely with being a lover of perfumes. Just unfortunate that “the smell is a repugnance, a stained and lingering banality, and an absolute antidote of beauty” later on. Thank heavens there’s no smoking in public places in Canada, or I’d be like you, loathe sometimes to subject myself to a night of stench: stench that comes home with you and won’t go away without a bath and a load of laundry.

    When I’m riding the bus and someone sits next to me who smells like cigarettes I have to get up and find as seat as far away as possible. Both my parents smoked religiously when I was growing up and the house always reeked. It was even in the walls, I think. I developed a real repulsion towards the smell, partly because I could never escape it. After driving any length of time with the two of them in the car (with the windows up in the dead of a Canadian winter), I couldn’t stand to be in my own smoke-stench a second more than I had to and changed the instant we got in the door. But then they’d come in and both light up, and I would slowly become stinky again. God, I feel queasy just remembering.

    Later, I think the smell of cigarette smoke in my long hair after a night of clubbing was the very, very worst.

    I did try to smoke. My friend and I stole a whole carton of cigarettes when we were 12, hitch-hiked to the woods, found a little clearing, sat down and lit our first cigarette. I inhaled, coughed once, passed it to her; she inhaled, coughed, and stubbed the thing out, and that was that. Never smoked again. We sold the rest of the carton to her older brother at a small profit.

    I do love the smell of pot and hash, though. Haven’t smoked that stuff in decades, but this part of the world is known for home-grown and hippies and I get the chance to smell it in the air a lot. Sure takes me back.

    As usual, this piece of yours was beautifully written.

    • As was this.

      I have to agree with you though – when someone sits next to you reeking of old smoke it verges on genuinely shocking. Just a really ugly, ugly odour.

      • “Ugly, ugly.” Yup. That reminds me of my dad’s dad. He died of lung cancer and smoked through the hole in his neck right there in the hospital bed until he couldn’t hold the effing cigarette. That’s a pretty nasty habit to go out with. Ugly is right.

        Ric smoked Drum tobacco for years and years, and smoked when I first met him. That is the best-smelling tobacco if a person has to smoke. Ric was one of those rare people who didn’t seem to exude the smell of tar and nicotine through their pores. Even his breath was untainted. He up and quit cold turkey when he got the results back from a scan of his lungs. The cluster of spots turned out to be benign, but the experience scared him stark raving straight. I remember him coming over right after he got back from the doctor’s and seeing him walk past my window, his arm in the air, shaking out the last of the tobacco from his pouch of Drum out over the deck and into the tree branches. Yeah, RIC!!!!!

      • A heartening tale – the last part anyway.

        I love the smell of fresh pipe tobacco

      • I just remembered. For a few New Year’s Eves in my thirties, I’d have a few puffs of a good cigar along with a single malt, cognac or bourbon just after midnight. It made the booze taste really, really extra good.

      • That may be so, but the bus ride today with grim smelling clothes ( even hanging them outside for a full twelve hours ) made me miserable.

        And I am about to head out for a second helping….

        Can’t WAIT to get these rags into the washer…

      • But I invariably regretted it in the morning.

  6. David

    I used to smoke. My first years in Japan in the 90s were a paradise because we could smoke on the train platforms of the Yamanote Line, on long distance trains, and, of course, in bars. But I hated the smell that would linger on my fingers (tips stained yellow, I might add). I always had to wash my hands, causing me to have dried, cracked, bleeding skin. That was the main reason I quit. And quitting smoking was the hardest thing I ever quit– harder than quitting alcohol, dairy, cocaine, sugar, meat.

    I still smoke marijuana. I don’t really love the smell (love the smoke itself, though), but the next day it really is just a slight green smell that lingers a bit. Also, I noticed when I am smoking weed, the smell of perfume is just so beautiful. Even the blind buys that are all screechy on me (aquatics) are lovely when I smoke. I don’t think I will ever quit weed. It has a wonderfully stabilizing effect and it produces the deepest, most healing sleep imaginable. I suffer from hyperthyroidism and it seems to eliminate all the negative symptoms (shaking, night sweats, moodiness). There is absolutely no hangover in the morning– the main reason I quit alcohol and cocaine. It’s still illegal in Brazil, but easily available everywhere. Cigarette smoking is banned in all public spaces in Brazil, and shockingly, the law is completely respected, even at the sleaziest bar or night club.

  7. If even swingin’ Brazil has cracked down on smoking, Neil, do tell: why does Japan still cling to the bad old days? Especially being so sensitive when it comes to wearing perfume in public spaces and collectively recoiling at a bit of harmless civet, etc.?

    • But Japan is fine with all kind of stenches.. it just viscerally hates, on the whole, perfume.

      Non smoking sections have sprung up in recent years but the filth still seeps out like a viper…..

      The worst are the (admittedly delicious) yakitori restaurants: grilled skewered chicken but the smoke of the incinerating animals, the punters’ cigarettes … it’s fucking foul and when you smell yourself afterwards you are filled with quasi suicidal urges.

      And you go on the train and it’s the norm – reeking of chicken fat and cigarettes is perfectly acceptable. I therefore have to plan my clothes/perfume itineraries around such stinking monstrousness.

      Is such a sacrifice inevitable? Is it possible in other countries to go to a restaurant and emerge profumo intacto?

      • I would go crazy in Japan. I sympathize. Oh, Neil!

      • Mingzhe Wang

        Why do you think some people hate perfume so much? Isn’t it funny that they are ok with all sort of odor, but they are so hostile to stuff that actually smells good. I know people who never raise an eyebrow for any stench, but if you ever aim at them a perfume bottle, they would jump up and kill you. Could this be a macho thing? As they might associate perfume with dandy, womanly, unmanly, etc (women included).

  8. OnWingsofSaffron

    I hate it too: a deep, uncompromising, and at times obsessive hate!
    On another note: isn‘t it strange that all of those wonderful vintage perfumes — pre and post war — were worn by women who smoked. Everyone used to smoke, and everything must have reeked of that horror. So say in 1961, a women (hair, skin, clothes) smelled/stank mostly of nicotinee and tabacco plus an inkling of Shalimar or Bellodgia? Take Coco Chanel who probably chain-smoked?
    So the overall olfactory impression back then was mostly always old musty cigarette smoke plus a perfume?

    • Honestly, they must have STUNK. My clothes this morning were vile smelling beyond belief, and this must have been the norm.

      What perfumes could have competed? Caron Poivre, in extrait, could have proved a rather pleasing antidote.

  9. Mary P Brown

    Interesting conversation! I used to smoke in my 20’s but was so happy I decided to quit, I loved smoking as I found it relaxing, but hated the lingering odor on my clothes and in the house. I quite detest the smell of cigarette, weed (the stuff they smoke now smells horrible, skunky) and wood smoke now. Smelling it on others sometimes makes me feel nauseated. It’s funny though I love the smell of pipe, hookah and incense smoke, sometimes cigar smoke. Sort of on the same note, I read an interesting perfumery article on how they make smoky attars where they would actually blow smoke into a container of the perfumed oil (any kind of smoke), cap it and allow it to settle with it for a while. There was a conversation on one of the forums of a perfume site that talked about how you could personally layer fragrances to meld better with the lingering odor of smoke on your clothing and hair. I thought that was genius, brilliant – but I still think smoking is a dirty and unhealthy habit 🙂

    • OnWingsofSaffron

      Re smokey attars: How interesting! Last November, I visited the Oman, and high in the Jebel al Akhdar mountains they grow roses. Before my visit I had read all about the roses, the rose distilleries, and of course the rose water—so I was all set for happy visiting and buying.
      In the town of Nizwa I first asked for Omani rose water and, yes I was told, we have the original stuff and would I like to smell it. Ooh, yes please. The salesman squirted some of it onto my wrist—and a vile smell spread: something like when you clean a BBQ grill on which the meat grilled. The salesman was absolutely delighted, I disgusted.
      I thought it was some misunderstanding yet it later turned out that the rosewater is distilled in such a way that it had that super smokey smell. (Apparently one sprays it on rice?)
      I never found the distillery, and I didn‘t find any rosewater as we know it. Then in a supermarket literally in the middle of a desert the size of which would put each French hypermarché to shame (with the cheerful name „Lulu“) I found a selection of about 15 different rosewaters. I bought a bottle of the stuff: Persian rosewater from Kashan!! Irony: when I visited Kashan at another time, I didn‘t find a single bottle in any shop there …!?!

    • This is interesting – could you send me the link?

      Not that I intend to start layering my perfumes with stale cigarette butts but I am intrigued by the perfume here as complementary masking device.

      • Oh, that is an interesting article, I haven’t seen that one, thanks for sharing it! I’ll try to find the one I saw on the Arabian attars, and the posts in the forum, but it was on a similar note of the article you posted here from the nst blog – fragrances that compliment smokers.

  10. Tara C

    When I lived in France it was a misery to be trapped in homes and restaurants, especially in winter, with a room full of smokers. I had to get up and stand outside every twenty minutes to get some air, or hide in a back bedroom and then be accused of being anti-social. I have never smoked, but my parents did (they quit when I was a teen and never smoked in the house). My husband smokes, but never in the house, and except for the first few minutes after he comes back inside, his hair, clothes and breath never smell of tobacco. Living in Canada now I never have to worry about getting stinky from cigarettes. I do smell weed regularly, which I dislike, but it’s always outdoors and can usually be avoided.

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