I don't use tobacco or nicotine in any form. I don't smoke it, chew it, snort it or rub it on my belly. I do however smoke Spiceys (my term). You think that is a strange first line for an article with this title? Read on and see if any of this rings a bell for you or a loved one. For you folks who are hooked on nicotine, this may be a health salvation without all the folderol. No patches, gum, or withdrawal. If nothing else I hope I give you a chuckle or two with this story.
I started smoking seriously in 1957, when I was seventeen, a senior in high school. By serious, I mean going so far as to buy my own cigarettes. (When I had the money) ( or borrow one out of mom's purse, if she wasn't around.) In those days you could buy a deck of Luckies out of a machine for twenty-five cents. With that you got three shiny pennies under the cellophane and a book of matches. (It was like a starter kit.) I've seen people buy out of a machine these day, their arms get tired putting quarters in. Of course they are so expensive the manufacturer was kind enough to put slots for dollar bills. And of course the cigarette manufacturers wouldn't dream of spending the extra money to include matches in this exorbitant price. Why should they? They know you're hooked and you will find your own light. And you will find it fast, if they know their smoking market, and they do. Speaking of hooked, for more years than I care to mention the last thing I did every night was to have a cigarette. I would put it out then roll over and go to sleep. The first thing I did every morning was to light one up. I mean the very first thing. Also I might add, it was not unusual for me to get up two or three times in the middle of the night and have a smoke or two. How's that for being addicted? This wouldn't be a story about smoking if I didn't talk about burning holes in clothes. I happen to be a convertible person. I've been driving a convertible of one sort or another for a good number of years. Every one of them has cigarette burns somewhere in the car. Of course, the classic, is dropping your cigarette or a hot ash in your lap while you're driving in traffic. That's good for at least a hole in your pants, if not a hole in the car seat. As you are driving around digging at your crotch diligently trying to recapture this wild ash, the people around you are saying, "Look at that pervert, or thinking I'll bet he dropped a live cigarette." I'm not sure how many shirts, pants, sport coats, and suits I threw away because I had burned holes in them by dropping the ember ashes in my lap, or having the cigarette in my mouth lifting my arm for what ever reason, then turn my head. Zap there goes another hole. If it were a favorite shirt or jacket, I would consider having a re-weave done, but as you may know these are very expensive. If I had all this money back I've spent on repairing cigarette burn holes, I'm sure I could buy a round of drinks for Spring Texas.
I tried smoking corn-silk as a young kid. At that point I sure couldn't tell why adults enjoyed smoking. Although it was very alluring to watch my uncles blow smoke rings, it looked fun to me. Smoking corn silk was a little like my first taste of bourbon. I didn't know why on earth anybody would want to put their throat through this kind of torture, It just made no sense to me. Smoking corn silk was a bit like swallowing a porcupine against the grain. I tried smoking cigarettes several times. Each time I got sicker than the time before. I think God was trying to tell me something. You would think that anybody who threw up as violently as I did during these experiments would say, "Okay that's not for me." You would also think that down on all fours retching, and seeing what I believed to be my stomach lying there in the grass, would be enough for any sane person, even a young person, to say enough already.
Then a couple of days might pass and I would see someone looking like they were really enjoying an after dinner smoke. Or I would go to a movie and would see the real cool guys smoking. I'm thinking, if I want to be cool I've got to smoke.
Well anyway, some of the guys I hung around with started smoking in the sixth grade. It just took me a little longer to get the hang of it. One of the things I always found fascinating is where a person kept their cigarettes. For a while in high school it was cool to roll them in the sleeve of your T-shirt. This served several purposes. This showed the teachers that you were a rebel to be reckoned with, as well as showing the girls you were cool. Just like Marlon Brando in The Wild One or James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause. That whole scene got old after a while and I just put them in a pocket. In the shirt was okay, in the Levis, you ended up with flat cigarettes. But they still smoked.
After high school and before the Navy, a friend of mine and I went to the wilds of British Columbia Canada to pan gold. This was a unique experience for several reasons. I ran out of smokes and my friend and I traveled fifty miles to get to a small place called Hope B.C. As small as the town was, they did have a general store that handled cigarettes. Not being familiar with Canadian Cigarettes, I just asked the clerk for some smokes. She gave me a cigarette by the name of Black Cats. This is where I first became aware of the term bridge tobacco. For you people who are unaware of this term I will explain. There is this covered bridge that is a main thoroughfare for horse and carriage traffic. Of course, as the horses go through they kick up splinters of wood, urinate and drop horse apples. The next horse that goes through the bridge mixes up what the previous horses have left behind and so on. This leaves a mixture of wood splinters, horse urine, and horse poop. Now once a month or so, this guy comes along with a broom and dust pan, sweeps this stuff up and sells it to some cigarette manufacturer. This is called bridge tobacco. Now I'm not saying that the people who manufacture Black Cat cigarettes are users of bridge tobacco. However, when I smoked these things, I would say to my friend, "All right now I'll hold the gun on you and you can get your nicotine fix." Harsh tasting didn't near cover the term for the taste of these things. I think Black Cat cigarettes is the reason people talk about how tough Canadian lumberjacks are. I've heard tell these guys don't shave. They just hit themselves in the face with the flat of the ax, drive the whiskers in, then chew them off from the inside, and spit out the whiskers. This would be a piece of cake after smoking a Black Cat or two.
Several years in the Navy showed me some new tricks. In the Navy, is also where I found out the value of a Zippo lighter. They would light under most circumstances. You also had the joy of over filling the lighter with fluid, then have it leak in your pocket. This promoted a severe rash on your leg and of course made you smell like a napalm bomb. Now by regulation, if you were in dress uniform you put the cigarettes in your sock. That worked reasonably well, except in the summer. I would sweat, and end up with soggy cigarettes. When the Chief Petty officer said, "If you've got-em smoke-em." They were soggy, but they still smoked.
I spent a good deal of my youth bumming around the world. Part of this time I spent as a steel worker. Specifically as a bridge painter. This posed some unique problems for the smoker. Because we were painting with a lead based paint, we had to wear several layers of clothes to avoid lead poisoning. We also wore heavy work gloves for the same reason. Now when your a couple a hundred feet above the ground, covered from head to toe in green paint and starting to go into nicotine withdrawal, you start pawing around trying to remember where you put the cigarettes. My first attempt at trying to keep cigarettes paint free and round, was to use the plastic case that would hold my cigarettes as well as a book of matches. Then I would just stick this package in any pocket. I still found that the smokes would get some paint on them, just in the process of getting them out and lighting them and it was a slow tedious job to get to them. After all, I wanted a nicotine fix NOW. I finally ended up just putting them in my pocket. With all the green bridge paint I smoked, not to mention the red lead, I am amazed that I never got lead poisoning. There was a British cigarette called an "English Ovals." After sitting on a pack of cigarettes for a few hours, they became flat (ovalish). We bridge-painters called these "Green Ovals". If you believe there is something exciting about smoking a flat green cigarette two-hundred feet in air that tasted like paint, you too are in need of psychiatric help.
As long as I am covering smoking I guess I should throw in a story about smoking pot. That is marijuana or cannabis or any of the other zillion street names. My bumming around took me to New York City. At this point I was traveling with a very hip chick. We were visiting her sister and sister's boyfriend who had a loft near Battery Park. I was now twenty-one years old and had never tried marijuana. I had been afraid to try it. I was under the idea that if you took one puff you would be a dope addict for the rest of your life, however short that may be. I watched the three of them pass a joint around and get goofy. They convinced me that I would not turn into a junky for just trying it. The boyfriend said he would teach me about pot and pot smoking. I was an eager learner. I tried smoking a joint, using a bong, several kinds of water pipes with several different kinds of liquids in them. I didn't feel a thing. I said to him, " How long does it take to get high on this stuff, I could get higher holding my breath." We went out for a walk in Battery Park. I looked off in the distance and saw this large building, I said, "what is that?" He said, "That's the United Nations building." It looked like one big window all lit up to me. Shortly after that I found myself on all fours again puking my guts out. Looking at my stomach lying there in the grass again. Later I found that you can't see the UN bld from Battery Park. Looking back, I wonder what he was smoking.You would think that the trouble I have had putting foreign substances into my body that I would have learned not to do that any more. Not so!
Now after traveling around the world and have smoked cigarettes from all over I finally settled in Washington D.C. The city of Washington D.C. is a very heavy partying town. I mention this just for you folks who have never tipped your beer back to get a good long slug, only to find at the end of your chug-a-lug you have a cigarette butt in your mouth. Believe me this is enough to make you give up drinking and smoking (almost).
I was sharing an apartment with a guy named Bruce, who also enjoyed smoking a little grass now and again. We decided that the price to buy the stuff was exorbitant, so we would grow our own. We had a second floor apartment with plenty of sun, so we planted some seeds in a planter and ended up with one marijuana plant. We nurtured it, watered it, fed it African violet food. The plant prospered very well. It grew to be about four foot high; It never got any taller because we couldn't resist sampling the goods. We would pick leaves off, dry them out in the oven and then smoke them. For some reason this stuff tasted mentholated. We decided it was the African violet food that caused this flavor; however we could never duplicate the taste with our other horticulture experiments . We couldn't resist giving our grass-smoking friends a taste. The plant never did reach maturity but it was the topic of many a conversation. We felt if we could market mentholated pot, that would be our first million dollar endeavor.
About this same time Bruce heard from some reliable source, Probably a chick that had not drawn a sober breath in years, that smoking bananas peels was another non-addictive high. It's too bad we didn't have the sense to buy stock in Chiquita. We certainly must have driven the stock up considerably. We tried smoking the peels raw first. Trying to set fire to a raw banana skin is almost impossible. Note I say almost, but we could not get the desired affect. We put the peels in a blender, chopped em, pureed em, baked the banana skins, fried em dried them with a heat lamp, and dried them in the sun. Then we smoked this stuff. Still nothing. As I said before, we could get higher holding our breath. Part of our problem was getting rid of the by-product. In this case, the meat of the banana. You can only have bananas so many ways. To this day, when I hold a banana in my hand my gag reflex kicks in just a bit and my stomach jumps and says, oh no, not again. My conscience tells me, "What? You want to see your stomach lying there on the ground again." I think the Chiquita banana people started the bull about a new natural high.
At this point in my life I became a sales person and later a lobbyist. Both of these professions call for a lot of phone work. Now I would find that I might have two or three cigarettes going at the same time. Or maybe light them, put them in an ashtray and let them burn out. If I didn't know better I would say that the cigarette makers invented the telephone. Even though I let the cigarettes burn down in an ashtray, I still needed my nicotine fix. So I would light another one.
After several years of partying and drinking my share of beers with butts in them, I found the woman I love. It so happened she also smoked. Ah, but a different brand. We decided we would smoke one kind of cigarette, so we bought several kinds of filter cigarettes, then we had a blind taste test in the bathroom with the lights out to see what would be our brand. As it ended up we really didn't care, as long as we got the nicotine fix. So we ended up smoking Raleighs for the coupons. Our reasoning was sound. As long as we smoke let's get some added value out of this. We moved to Texas and for several years we smoked this brand. We got stuff like toasters or irons with the coupons. We were lucky if the devises we got from the coupons lasted through the next carton of cigarettes.
One day my wife had a revelation, She said, "All this smoking is not good for our health. I'm giving it up." She had one more cigarette and said, "That's my last one." This was the ultimate in cold turkey. She is tough. That was many years ago, she hasn't had so much as a puff since.
Ten or so years later, I looked back to discover that for the most part of the last thirty-five years I had smoked two to four packs a day, depending on what I was doing. Playing poker or out drinking with the boys was always the worst. It would be a lead-pipe cinch that that day was going to be a four packer.
I'm not a health nut, although I guess I should be. Somewhere along this time frame I had emergency brain surgery. Because of the brain surgery, this is also the period that I established a new life long credo. Always be concerned about quality of life. The brain surgery thing showed me that you could be taken off this earth at any time, for any reason. I decided, I would give up putting nicotine into my body, but I would not give up smoking. As far as I was concerned smoking was a part of my Quality of life. I wasn't anxious to give up blowing smoke rings, or all the to-dos I go through to get a cigarette lit and in my mouth and ready to smoke. It was almost like a religious ceremony.
My wife and I decided that we would paint the inside of the house and turn it into a non-smoking home. After all, everyone in our supper club and bridge group have no smoking houses. I almost upchucked when I started doing the pre-cleaning for painting. The pictures above my chair were still outlined on the wall with a brown mook, that was sticky and smelled. If you want to give yourself a reason to give up smoking; take a couple of pictures off your wall and see what you have left. Ugh!
I decided I would ease myself away from the demon tobacco with its various poisons, additives and addictive substances. Who knows what they are putting into cigarettes these day. The cigarette manufacturers freely admit to adding more nicotine and some other stuff.
My first thought is; I'll go to a tobacconist and see what he recommends. Don't look at this as going to a drug pusher and asking, "What do you carry that won't kill me or get me hooked." Look at it more as though I'm going to a candy shop and saying to the proprietor, "What else do you have. I'm allergic to the last candy I got here and it made me sick." I found out there a many brands of tobacco cigarettes that are all natural products. Don't get me wrong they still have tobacco and nicotine, just not all the other junk manufacturers put in them to preserve the flavor and get you hooked on the cancer sticks. As it turned out I ended up going to a head shop for advise. For the uninformed this is a shop that caters to dope paraphernalia papers, pipes, screens, etc. They had a much better selection of natural tobacco cigarettes as well as cigarettes with no tobacco or nicotine.
I went about changing my smoking habit, much like I used to do a sales campaign on a new market. I realized that sucking any foreign material into my lungs was not good for me. I wanted to reduce the intake as much as possible, but still try to keep some flavor. I purchased a cigarette holder that had a filter in it. I also bought a cigarette case. I decided on a cigarette that was a blend of ginseng and all natural tobacco. I bought, what I considered to be my last carton of coffin nails and a carton of the new ginseng things. I would fill my cigarette case with half ginseng and half poison things. Every time I filled my case I would change filters in my cigarette holder. I figured this would be a good way to slip into my new smoking role. And it was! After finishing those two cartons, my next step was to integrate myself into no nicotine at all. There are numerous cigarettes that have no nicotine at all. The head shops and tobacconists have catalogs full of these types, as well as bulk herbs and spices for those of you who want to roll your own. A rolling machine is optional. I decided on a brand called Kickum. Rather apropos, wouldn't you say? They come in three flavors, spice, menthol or originals. The blend in these cigarettes is a mixture of different herbs and spices. The primary spices used in this brand are jasmine, chamomile, broom flowers, clove, damiana, sage, coltsfoot, wild lettuce, peppermint, and thyme. Almost sounds healthy, doesn't it? Now when I filled my cigarette case, with Kickums and the all natural tobacco cigarettes. No additives at all thank you.
I had kicked the habit of all the artificial junk they put in, and it was no great shakes at all. Now to ease myself away from nicotine, the foulest poison of them all. I mixed one last carton of all natural tobacco cigarettes with my new herbs and spices. After one go around with this, I was ready to give up nicotine all together. It was definitely a feeling of freedom. I could now give up smoking all together or just go with the herbs and spices, which I call Spiceys. For my quality of life I still wanted to blow smoke rings. So I kept on with the Spiceys. To give you an idea on other choices for Spiceys here are some other Spices that are mixed in with different non-nicotine smokes. Catnip, passion flower, mint, love and light, ginseng, cornsilk, yerba santa, licorice, mullein, horehound, marshmallow, red clover, althaea, and khatmi. So you see if you' re really serious about getting the nicotine monkey off your back you have lots of choices. You still need to be careful, Ann my dart playing friend is terribly allergic to cloves. I wouldn't smoke clove type Spicey's in her presents, She would go into a sneezing attack. Be a considerate person.
I was on vacation in Aruba, sitting at the bar. I lit a Spicey, and got a look from the bartender that said we don't want your kind here. One of the people at the bar said I'll trade you one of my cigarettes for one of yours. They do smell somewhat like grass. The manager of the hotel came over and actually made me prove that I was smoking herbs and spices and not marijuana. I discovered that the Spiceys are a great conversation starter.
For your quality of life you may choose to get totally clean. Take nothing into your lungs but air. Of course you know if you live in a big city no telling what other substances you are inhaling as well. Most important you are not hooked on nicotine anymore. I'm now smoking less than a pack a day of the Spiceys, and enjoying smoking more than ever. Even though these Spiceys are quite expensive, about twenty dollars a carton. They should be exempt from the up and coming tobacco tax. I am still blowing smoke rings, getting all the oral gratification I need, and I still have my smoking ritual. But I am nicotine free. In short, I am smoking less and enjoying it more.