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May 2, 2011

Between 2009 and late 2010, I bought one pack of cigarettes, with cloves in them, and two packs of clove “cigars.”

Obama, in his less than infinite wisdom banned all flavored cigarettes, except those containing menthol, which, in my opinion, is a flavor.

Many brands of flavored cigarettes were imports, such as clove cigarettes, which come from Indonesia, and “bidis” – small flavored cigarettes, which were imported from India. I believe that Obama’s true motivation to ban flavored cigarettes was not to help kids who Obama said would be especially attracted to flavored cigarettes. Kids go for what adults smoke, and what is popular. And the brands that are popular are Marlboros and Camels, and among the black community especially, menthol cigs such as Kools and Newports.

I think Obama’s real motivation was to assist American tobacco companies, by eliminating competition. Adults who liked flavored cigarettes but could not longer get them, might just turn to unflavored cigarettes. That was the assumption, I think.

The flavored cigarette companies – again, mostly from overseas – had to regroup. They, especially the dominant company, Djarum, changed their blend of tobacco, sold their smokes in packs of 12 instead of 20, and had their products re-labled as “cigars.” Even though these new versions of the Djarum smokes looked almost identical to cigarettes.. thin, wrapped in paper, a filter. But.. a slightly different form of tobacco, and the smokes are just a tiny bit thicker, and so therefore, the products are labeled cigars.

I bought two of those packs of 12 last year.

Why clove cigarettes? Because, unlike most cigs, clove smokes (also called “kreteks”) smell and taste good. A drawback: inhaling clove-laced smoke supposedly causes one’s lungs to bleed. I don’t know if this is fact or urban myth. But in any case, I tried not to inhale. I attempted to smoke these clove flavored cigs and cigars like I would a pipe. No, not a crack pipe or a bong, a pipe for tobacco. In other words, I inhaled the smoke just a bit, into my mouth, and blew it out.. often trying to blow smoke rings, which I could manage on rare occasions. Yes, a little bit of smoke got into my lungs, sure. But not much.

I haven’t had a non-clove cigarette in several years. I don’t remember which year it was since I lit up one of those.

I never had the smoking habit real bad. Not really. And for that I am verygrateful.

Back in the mid-nineties, I would smoke semi-regularly. For awhile, I averaged a pack a week. One week, I smoked two packs. That’s the most I’ve ever smoked in a week.

One reason I didn’t smoke more was that I would partake for two weeks, then I would get sick. Some sort of cold. Then I’d stop for several weeks, or a month, then buy another pack, and repeat the cycle. Crazy, I know.

Another reason I didn’t smoke much: Back then, here is how I reacted to smoking cigarettes… My gums would hurt, and my face would feel uncomfortably dry. I could even feel the lines around my eyes sting a little.

I asked other smokers if they ever felt this way. They all said no. A girl I talked with, who had been smoking for years, gave me a rather odd look, and told me, “… maybe you shouldn’t smoke.”

I eventually decided not to.

Years past.

I think I had a few cigarettes in 2003, maybe just 3 or 4 within the whole year.

2004, that was a stressful year.. very intense job working with developmentally disabled clients. Also, for awhile, had bad management to deal with. Some companies that work with DD clients are non-profits. I think that is good.. not all of these non-profit companies are great to work for, or even honest, but still, at least they don’t have a profit motive. I worked for a for-profit company, which made the job worse. Money ahead of client care.

I will not go into detail about why the job was stressful. I’ll just say that I felt terribly messed up and exhausted, burnt out. And, some people around me were smoking, which didn’t help. It tends to be harder not to smoke, if there are smokers nearby.

Back in the ’90’s, I liked smoking socially. A relaxed thing to do, sort of a way to bond with other people. This social smoking as a bonding experience is an ancient tradition.. probably going back thousands of years. We are still susceptible to the urge .. to smoke with others.

So I bought a pack or two, that year, but never finished the pack, always gave it away to a guy who had a long history of smoking. Just thought that since the person I was giving my smokes to would be lighting up anyway, he might as well smoke a better brand. The brands I mainly stuck to were Dunhill (imported from England, and bearing the slogan “the world’s finest cigarette”) and American Spirit. Especially American Spirit menthols.

Hmm.. It was probably at least three years ago that I last bought a pack of American Spirits.

I smoked a few, over the course of a week.

And a strange thing happened: I’d never ever experienced a physical craving for cigarettes.

But.. this last time.. I felt a strange, addictive craving. A truly insidious feeling. Which scared me. I decided not to buy any regular smokes.

More years past. And eventually in 2009, I bought a pack of clove cigarettes. And two packs of clove cigars in 2010. That was it.

As time passed, I continued to deal with terrible stress. As I have written in other blogs, I suffer from various forms of mental illness, including obsessive-compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.

I would say that generally, my OCD symptoms have been the worst. Thoughts and cravings and recurring ideas get stuck in my head. Often the thoughts or desires will rotate. One obsession will pass, for a little while, and another will take its place. And sometimes the obsessions overlap, and I have to deal with two at once. But sometimes they just rotate, and I mostly deal with one at a time. Such has been the case with Buddhism, Paganism, and the desire to buy and attempt to play instruments. I’ve written a great deal about these subjects too.

I finally got over the musical instrument craving, after dealing with over 2 decades of frustration, obsession, despair. And many thousands of dollars in debt. Some of which I still have to pay off.

Apparently, another obsession had to taken the place of the musical instrument psychosis, since just having to deal with spiritual/religious obsessions .. just isn’t enough self-torment. Believe me, if I could eliminate these obsessions, I would!

So, since one obsession had passed, another began.. the craving for cigarettes and other forms of tobacco kicked in.

And got worse, and worse.

In every convenience store or drug store, if there was a tobacco section, I would look over to see if there were any of the cigarettes that I liked. Could never find any A.S. smokes that were menthols. So, even though I had a craving, I would not buy.

But this past Saturday, I finally gave in. I was at an Albertson’s grocery store. Turns out this chain of stores has an extensive selection of tobacco products. I found the type of cigarettes I was looking for, and bought a pack.

Today is Monday. One of the things on my to-do list today was to have a smoke.

Less than an hour ago, I sat on a bench underneath the patio cover. Listened to the wind, looked at the beauty of nature in the park-like backyard. A few rain drops fell. There was even a subtle but lovely smell in the air.

I opened the pack of cigarettes, and breathed in. Up until now, I’d always liked the smell of a freshly opened pack of smokes.

Not today. It seemed like a subtle abomination.. the smell of the new cigarettes as compared to the smell of flowers, evergreen trees, and rain.

But I lit up anyway, even though I didn’t feel exactly great about it.

There’s a reason cigarettes are sometimes referred to as “coffin nails.” I thought of cigarettes as death being sold in little boxes. I felt morally conflicted about smoking.

Still, I took a few puffs, barely inhaling.

And could not handle the taste.

When I smoked, I always liked the taste of menthol cigarettes, except once when I tried Marlboros. No matter what variation of Marlboro I had tried, I always hated it. And Nat Shermans, hated those too. But the other brands of menthol smokes I liked.

And this was my favorite brand. A fresh menthol cigarette.

And I hated it.

I could not even finish the first cigarette. I smoked less than a third of it. I thought, “This is awful, why the hell am I forcing myself to do this for?”

I stubbed it out, and walked to the side of the house, over to the trash bin. I was certainly not going to litter the lovely backyard with even one partially smoked cigarette.

I had thought of giving the rest of the pack to a friend of mine who is a chronic smoker. That’s what I’d done in the past… given the leftovers to grateful smokers.

This time though, I decided not to pass along the remaining cigarettes in the pack, in this case being 19. I decided that although my friend is a smoker, I did not feel right handing her more cigarettes. I like her, and don’t want to give her something I know is poisonous. If she wants to smoke, that is her business, and I will not try to stop her. But I will not be complicit in helping her on the way to poorer health. I hope she doesn’t mind that I didn’t save the smokes for her. My conscience, and concern for her wellbeing, would not let me.

So, I tossed the 19 and just over two-thirds cigarettes into the trash bin, and deposited the cardboard box into the recycling bin. And walked back in the house.


My face feels dry. I can feel the lines around my eyes stinging a tiny bit. No pain in my gums, just a very slight sensitivity. But my ears feel a bit odd.. sort of a congestion. Ears nose and throat are all connected, as you probably know. That’s why there are certain medical specialists that concentrate only on the ears, nose, and throat.

My clothes don’t smell too bad, since I smoked outside, and only smoked for about 2 minutes.

That is enough.

No more cigarettes.

I might someday smoke other forms of tobacco, I suppose. But no more cigarettes.

In case you are wondering if I have smoked anything else in the past, the answer is yes. In 1997, I smoked marijuana. Once. I got quite sick. I’d taken a big hit. Coughed like mad, eyes watered, got a runny nose. Didn’t get high at all. VERY unpleasant. No weed since then. No thank you.

Never tried any other street drugs. Figured cocaine, heroin, meth, and so forth.. doing one of those drugs was too close to committing suicide, and that I’d just commit suicide and get it over with, instead of trying any of the hard drugs.

I am still alive, and have not tried any of the hard drugs. And won’t. Not in the least tempted. Not much substances are tempting.

Beer and other forms of alcohol don’t do much for me. I had one 12 oz. can of Miller late yesterday afternoon, and had gas from it until after midnight. Just from one can.

Rolling Rock doesn’t mess me up as bad as that, neither do micro brews, wine, or jack and coke.

But all forms of alcohol just don’t help much. Usually I feel better for a little while, more relaxed, and then pretty soon feel more manic and frustrated.

I still drink occasionally, especially if there is pizza around. I have a slight dairy allergy, and a beer or two helps cut the congestion caused by eating all that cheese on the pizza. And besides, certain brands and types of beer really taste good. I enjoy light brews such as Rolling Rock, a few amber ales, India pale ales, porters, and stouts.

But don’t drink that much, because it isn’t all that much fun. I’ve never even been drunk, not once. I just have a few beers a month, generally, and that is enough.

The only other substance I am interested in ingesting in moderation is cigar or pipe tobacco. I like various forms of aromatic pipe tobacco. I’ve never met anyone who said they did not like the smell of pipe tobacco. There are kinds that do smell horrible, and, I am guessing taste bad too, but those types tend not to sell well, at least not in America. I’ve heard those nasty smelling forms of pipe tobacco are more popular in England, but people don’t like them here.

Yes, the aromatic pipe tobaccos are quite pleasant. These tobaccos are not designed to be inhaled into the lungs, and there is a much lower risk of lung cancer, and other smoking-related diseases. FAR less environmental impact as well!

Cigarette smokers leave their cigarette butts everywhere. Many smokers don’t bother with ashtrays, even if ashtrays are close by. Butts are tossed everywhere. I used to throw the ends of my smokes on the sidewalk and street. I was a litterer too.

Pipe tobacco smokers hold onto their pipes (which tend to be pricey.. often costing over a hundred bucks. I paid over $80.00 for mine), and just dump out the ash. A bit of ash dumped out here and there.. not an environmental problem.

So yeah, I will eventually get some pipe tobacco. There are a few purveyors of fine tobaccos in the area, and I like going to classy shops like these and smelling different blends and buying small quantities of tobacco. I will likely purchase some later this month. That is, if I can find my pipe, which is buried in one of my boxes somewhere. Moved recently, and most of my material goods are in boxes.

A bit of pipe smoking here and there, not a bad thing.

I am slightly tempted to try a cigar or two. Not those big cigars you see people smoking in movies. I prefer smaller cigars that are still genuine cigars, not those “cigars” which look just like cigarettes. No, I am talking about true cigars, that do not come with filters, and are made with the filler tobacco wrapped in tobacco leaves.

There are two kinds of cigars like. One is made by Backwoods, and is sold almost anywhere cigarettes are sold. Less than ten dollars for a pack of.. hmm.. 8? I’m not sure..haven’t bought a pack of those in at least five years. Most cigars in this price range have cigar filler tobacco, and are as thick as the Backwoods cigars, but are wrapped in paper, not tobacco leaves.

The other brand I like is a more high end, upscale. This brand is C.A.O. I don’t know what the initials stand for. I think these cigars are made in Brazil. You can only find CAO cigars online or in good smoke shops. I really shouldn’t use the term “smoke shops” when referring to tobacconists. Smoke shops, also called head shops, are the kinds of stores where street drug paraphernalia, such as bongs and roach clips, can be purchased.

Most of the CAO cigars are the typical large ones, but they do sell small ones, which are naturally flavored. The kind I like is called moon trance or moon beam or something hippie-ish like that. Nice mix of flavors blended with the tobacco, but these cost over 20 dollars for a pack of ten, if I remember right. That, for me, is prohibitively expensive.

Hmm.. cigars.. maybe someday, maybe not.. in no hurry to buy those, and.. damn, after a few puffs and barely inhaling smoke from a filtered cigarette.. maybe I don’t want to try the cigars. Because I will probably inhale at least a tiny bit of the cigar tobacco, and that just won’t be fun.

What about chewing tobacco? Never been interested in that. Pipe tobacco has the possibility of causing mouth and throat cancer, but I don’t think the risk is very high, especially for occasional smokers. However, use of chewing tobacco… much higher risk of mouth cancer, and gum disease as well.

Plus it is such a nasty habit! As unpleasant as secondhand smoke. A friend of mine used to chew. He came over a couple times to crash at my place. Once, he brought his container of chewing tobacco with him, and spit the stuff into a coke can.

This was an unwelcome distraction.. difficult to converse with someone spitting into a can. It was also disgusting. No thank you.

What about snuff, tobacco that looks like chewing tobacco, but is much more finely cut, and designed to be inhaled through the nose?

A dude I was hanging out with for a short time in 2009 tried snuff, and liked it. He’d put a dab on his fist, and snort it up his nose. Then he’d get red in the face, sneeze powerfully, then repeat. I was grossed out by this, and thought he was crazy. I don’t want to put anything up my nose. I don’t even like to use nasal spray when I’ve got a cold. If I’m going to use tobacco, I will smoke it.

In summation.. I’ve not had much of a love affair with tobacco, but some of it I still enjoy, on rare occasions. I will likely try a bit more pipe tobacco here and there, but not much.
It is also possible that I’ll buy some clove “cigars” or genuine cigars.

However, it is VERY unlikely I will ever try another cigarette.

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