Smoker’s cough! Our columnist test drives the new ‘Williamsburg’ Camels

Smoker’s cough! Our columnist test drives the new ‘Williamsburg’ Camels
Community Newspaper Group / Andy Campbell

R.J. Reynolds just started selling the “Williamsburg” version of its Camel cigarettes — and I don’t know whether to be offended as a smoker, a Williamsburger or a human being.

As a smoker, I’m pissed that the “Williamsburg” cigarettes are exactly the same as normal Camels. And I know — I’ve long been loyal, though now begrudgingly, to the Camel brand.

As a Brooklynite, I’m repulsed that some marketing guy in Raleigh thinks that Williamsburg is “about last call, a sloppy kiss goodbye and a solo saunter to a rock show in an abandoned building. It’s where a tree grows.”

That’s just cringe-worthy, as if Camel marketers went to the Wikipedia, looked up “hipster,” and then hired my grandfather to design a cigarette box.

Worse, as a resident of Planet Earth, I’m just disgusted by my fellow citizens, who have been throwing away good money on Big Tobacco’s latest come-on: Bodega owners across Williamsburg and Greenpoint say that they’re selling out of the gimmicky smokes as soon as they’re stocked.

People who once would rather fight than switch are grabbing the pack with their neighborhood’s name.

“I smoke Marlboro, but whenever I see the Williamsburg [Camels] I buy it,” said Abdo Hussein, a worker at God Bless Deli in Greenpoint. “I live in the neighborhood, so it’s cool to have. We’re selling out of them quick.”

One reason, of course, is that R.J. Reynolds is selling its Williamsburg, Seattle and Austin packs at a dollar off the normal price.

This creates a dilemma right out of the old Jewish joke about free ham. As a hipster, I’m aware of how Camel is trying to make a buck off my club-going, cooler-than-cool, lightly gentrifying ways. But as a hipster, I’m also perpetually broke, so I’d smoke shoe polish if it would save me a dollar per pack.

But here’s the kicker — reps said that they don’t even distribute the Williamsburg pack heavily in Williamsburg. Bodega workers on Bedford and Manhattan avenues said that they’re running out of the neighborhood pack the same day that they’re dropped off.

Heck, one woman even walks into the N 7 Market on Bedford Avenue and N. Seventh Street every single day to see if any Williamsburg packs arrived, a cashier said. When the packs are around, she buys every single one.

What better way to get people to buy an annoying product than to make them think it’s a limited-time offer that’s flying off the shelves?

But all it means is that R.J. Reynolds is having the last laugh — all the way to the bank.

“The pack is kinda stupid, but they [R.J. Reynolds] definitely know how to sell smokes,” said neighborhood resident Tyler Pearson, who coughed up $10.79 for a pack.

He had a point, I had to go out and buy a Williamsburg box myself. For research purposes, of course.

Community Newspaper Group / Andy Campbell