Skip to main content


My sad farewell to the joys of smoking

Alexandra Shulman, left, with Victoria Beckham and Anna Wintour. David M Benett/Getty Images

Having been diagnosed with breast cancer, I’m trying to give up cigarettes after 50 years, says Alexandra Shulman in the Daily Mail. It’s tough, because smoking has been “one of the greatest pleasures in my life since I took it up at 13”. My mother smoked, and nothing evokes my childhood like the smell of smoke veiled by “a spritz of Joy or Fracas, or a splash of Bay Rum aftershave”. To my young self, cigarettes were a symbol of adulthood. I started smoking as soon as I could – on the top deck of the bus, in the local burger joint, in boyfriends’ cars, even sneakily at home and school.

I puffed on anything: Gauloises Disque Bleu, Gitanes, gold Benson & Hedges. Cigarettes were as stylish “as a pair of Fiorucci velvet jeans”. Most people smoked at their desk in the fashion magazine offices where I worked – I remember one spat in Vogue over the smell of the scented candle that “a miserable, non-smoking colleague had lit to combat the tobacco fug”. I used to smoke four or five cigarettes, but only at the end of the day. They were “a sign-off from responsibility”. It was that feeling I was addicted to, “not really the nicotine”. Now, thanks to my diagnosis, I’m trying to vape instead. It’s not the same, but “I am really trying”.

Get our daily newsletter in your inbox

We cut through the noise to give you a fresh take on the world – in just five minutes a day. Sign up for the newsletter here.