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Kirsten Bell - The invisible materiality of the cigarette packet

In recent years, cigarette packets have become the site of considerable legislative attention based on the premise that branded cigarette packaging acts as a ‘silent salesman’ for smoking. According to this perspective, the cigarette packet has a particular sort of agency, but one rooted entirely in its communicative powers rather than its material qualities. Drawing together insights gleaned through a decade of research with smokers in Canada, an analysis of archives in the Truth Tobacco Industry Documents Library, and scholarship on materiality and containerization, I reconsider this view. Taking up the idea of containers – and enclosures more broadly – as undertheorized forms of materiality, I argue that the cigarette packet has powerful, albeit largely invisible, physical consequences on the circulation of cigarettes and the practice of smoking itself. 


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