Cigarettes Are Little Friends

I remarked a few days ago after reading it that “The Pleasure of Smoking” had struck me very forcefully as the title for a study of confirmed smokers. It rather subverted the ubiquitous “Smoking kills” shouted out on every cigarette packet these days. It was like reading “Vive la France” scrawled on a wall in occupied Paris.

It reminded me of how, a few years ago, I had laboriously copied a Catalan independence slogan that I’d found on a wall in Barcelona into a notebook I kept for such purposes. It had next to no meaning to me, but when a day or two later, my notebook happened to fall open on the reception desk of the hotel where I was staying, the receptionist behind the desk reacted with visible shock. Clearly it meant far more to him that it did to me.

My response to reading this subversive message had been to take it and amplify it and re-broadcast it on my own blog as “The Exquisite Pleasures of Smoking.” After all, there must be a great many people who only ever glance at the currently advertised title of my blog, as read on Facebook or elsewhere. I do the same myself, sifting through innumerable titles every day that I encounter in dozens of websites. Yet each one of those titles is a message in itself, which will be read, absorbed, processed, filed. The title is arguably the only thing that really ever gets read. A bit like the menu outside an expensive restaurant is the only thing in it that most people standing outside will ever consume.

On a good day, my blog will attract about 1000 views (although I don’t know whether this will be 10 people each viewing it 100 times). But there are quite likely to be 10 times that number who only read the title, as they glance through Facebook or somewhere else.  And my titles are often rather enigmatic (not that there is really anything wrong, per se, with enigmatic titles). And so perhaps far more attention should be given to the title above a piece of writing that to the bulk of the writing beneath it. (An example of this might be found in a book (by an author whose name I forget. Jerry Rubin?) which had the title: “Do It!” I opened the book and read a little and rapidly concluded that it was completely vacuous. No matter: the entire content was contained in the title.)

So today I’ve been toying with the question of what title to employ above today’s piece. What might be the most subversive message I could send – subversive of Tobacco Control, that is? I toyed for a while with the idea of something like “The Enduring Delights of Smoking Tobacco”, but also explored the idea that smoking a cigarette is “taking a little time for oneself”, or the idea I often have that cigarettes (and also pipes and cigars) are living things, and You’re Never Alone With A Strand.  This is something that always seems

a very important thing about cigarettes: that they are living things and little friends. One of the objections smokers have to e-cigs is that they’re cold and dead and plastic and heavy (although I can imagine all sorts of ways in which e-cigs might be brought to life. What about an e-cig with an liquid crystal display wrapped around it, that comes to brilliant, sparkling life when inhaled?) The warmth and the fire and the smoke of cigarettes is no different from that found in the glowing warmth of a coal fire, or even a single candle, and is not very well replicated in coal-effect electric fires. The idea that people smoke to get a nicotine fix is an extreme reductionist view – so extreme, in fact, to be entirely empty – perhaps like saying that the only purpose of the Earth is as something to stand on. Well, yes: it does provide that facility – but it has a great many others.

The only problem with the little friends that are cigarettes is that they die after just a few minutes – or, rather, they need to be stubbed out, killed, or otherwise euthanized when they’ve got too old. Cigars aren’t really very much better, although they usually live far longer. I think that there’s a case to be made that pipes are the very best of friends, and they can last a lifetime, and are really only sleeping between smokes. Furthermore the warm bowl of a pipe, cradled in the hand, is a genuinely hand-warming thing. Einstein used to keep his well-chewed pipe in his jacket pocket: where else would you keep a very dear little friend?

There’s also something elemental and primitive about smoking. Hand-rolling cigarettes is a bit like building a campfire in a forest clearing, by gathering twigs and leaves and logs. It’s an ancient ceremony. It connects us with all our ancestors, going back hundreds of thousands of years. There’s nothing ‘modern’ about smoking. And nothing ‘progressive’ either. Which may be one reason why ‘progressives’ detest the practice (but doesn’t explain why they also detest ‘progressive’ e-cigs). To inhale smoke into one’s lungs is to enter into a lost ancient world of scented and smoking hearths and oil lamps and altars.

There are any number of good things that can be said about all the varieties of different ways of using tobacco. And they need to be said. And dispersed into the world like seeds, as the titles of books or articles or blogs.

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About Frank Davis

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24 Responses to Cigarettes Are Little Friends

  1. Roobeedoo2 says:

    I watch very little TV these days but I did indulge a little over Christmas by watching ITV’s dramatisation of Maigret. Both episodes were excellent. Here’s a trailer from Aussie TV:

  2. Rose says:

    OT

    Well played, Mr Putin.

    Yesterday

    “THIRTY-FIVE Russian diplomats have been ordered to leave the US in retaliation to actions in Moscow, it has been revealed.
    Compounds in New York and Maryland are about to be closed to Putin’s representatives over what America has deemed to be inappropriate behaviour in Russia.

    A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the Russian diplomats would be given 72 hours to leave the United States.”
    http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/748306/US-expels-35-Russian-diplomats-and-closes-two-compounds-Moscow-New-York

    Today

    “In a statement on the Kremlin website (in Russian), Mr Putin said: “We won’t be expelling anyone.

    “We won’t be banning their families and children from the places where they usually spend the New Year holidays. Furthermore, I invite all children of American diplomats accredited in Russia to the New Year and Christmas Tree in the Kremlin.”

    He wished Barack Obama and his family a happy New Year, as well as Mr Trump and “the whole American people”.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-38464612

    Putin 1 – Obama 0

  3. prog says:

    The now seemingly almost obsolete early plastic cigs did light up and we’re quite fun. I guess most of us tried them. But the modern ridiculous looking gizmos are far removed from normal cigarettes to the point that the term ‘e-cigarette’ is largely inappropriate. I glanced into an vaping emporium during last minute frantic Xmas shopping. A couple of nerdy-looking types were furiously partaking – I’m not kidding, the air inside was opaque.

  4. “Wonderful value for only three and tuppence”
    And there is me getting all twisted and bitter when i mentally convert the price of 50g UK Duty Paid or 20 UK Duty Flayed into ‘DMarks’ …”60fucking Marks for a 50g, I remember when a pack was 4 Marks?!?” is a phrase my kids hear quite often. Yep, I have become my Dad who, to this day, still works everything out in ‘bob’. Apparently there was a time when a ten bob note would pay for a night out and still leave you enough change for the Clapham Omnibus home (or, in my Dad’s case, the tube to Lambeth or somewhere called ‘Peckham’ -which I thought was a place Alexi Sayle made up).

    • Frank Davis says:

      there was a time when a ten bob note would pay for a night out and still leave you enough change for the Clapham Omnibus home

      Ten bob? I was once told by an elderly Bristolian that, in 1914, you could have a night out on the town for sixpence, and still have a ha’penny change.

      • garyk30 says:

        In 1845, Scrooge paid Bob Cratchit 15 shillings a week and His family of 6 got along on that small amount.
        A liveable wage for raising a family was, at that time, 20 shilling per week.

  5. Rose says:

    Gosh!

    There is a picture of naked young man on my tobacco.

  6. nisakiman says:

    Thanks for the ‘Strand’ clip, Frank, it really took me back. I remember it so well – it was iconic for the period; advertising at its best. In fact alcohol and cigarette advertising was always the most original and innovative of all advertised products, whether on TV or the printed page. Remember the Silk Cut ads? Pure brilliance. They never persuaded me to smoke Silk Cut cigarettes, mind you, but I lauded their subtlety and originality.

    The Grey Joyless Ones killed a whole creative culture when they got their spiteful, mean-spirited way with the advertising bans. May they rot in hell for the vandalism they have visited on the world. Oscar Wilde could have been thinking specifically about them when he wrote (to paraphrase) “They know the cost of everything and the value of nothing”.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Remember the Silk Cut ads? Pure brilliance.

      Yes, I do. But only the ones they did when they weren’t allowed to use their name, and had a sheet of purple silk with a blade (or a shark’s dorsal fin) cutting through it. Nothing else. I thought it was brilliant. I just wish I’d realised that what was being imposed on the tobacco companies was going to be imposed on everybody one day.

  7. Rose says:

    “The Silk Cut illustration is a beauty: a turnip-head archer, a scarecrow shaman in a ploughed field. The scarecrow is nailed to a spindly cross, straw feet don’t touch the ground. Gloved hand on drawstring. Slit-eyes watchful.”

    I’m still looking for a copy of that image.
    The one I cut out of my magazine is very old and tattered now, the wintery colours are faded as I left it where I could see it for far too long, it had made such an impression on me.

  8. Pingback: Tobacco Control Abuses Children | Bolton Smokers Club

  9. jaxthefirst says:

    Many years ago, when on our first holiday abroad – a driving holiday across France – I remember staring in wonder at all the billboards along the road in this strange foreign language. They looked so like ours in many ways, and yet they were completely incomprehensible to my very young eyes. One of them always stuck with me (probably because it was the one I asked an older travelling companion what it meant, and he told me). It said “Jamais seul avec RTL.” For a radio station, I think, it meant “You’re never alone with RTL.” And that phrase has always struck me as particularly appropriate for the feeling one has when smoking a cigarette, and for some reason it always crops up in my mind in the French, rather than the English, version. I’ve actually used it a couple of times when people have asked, rather patronisingly: “Don’t you get fed up with having to go outside on your own whenever you want to smoke?” Patting my cigarette packet gently, I answer: “Not at all. After all, I’m not alone– ‘jamais seul avec une cigarette’ – as they say,” Has a certain “panache,” don’t you think?

  10. Manfred says:

    Lovely post Frank. Made me think about the many songs that feature lines about cigarettes or smoking.
    Neil Diamond: ‘If you know what I mean.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O026rUkWwG8

    I came across these ads that lack the savoir faire of the ‘Lonely Man’.
    ‘A Selection of Cigarette Commercials from 50s and 60s American TV’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0yADZZ7jvY

    A Happy New Year to one and all from down-under, possibly one of the more promising for quite a while. ‘Live long and prosper’. And in the immortal words of Frank Sinatra, “You die your way and I’ll die mine”

  11. jameshigham says:

    It’s a wonder someone hasn’r jumped from pleasure of smoking and smoking kills to the pleasure of killing.

  12. Pingback: Tobacco Control Must Be Destroyed | Frank Davis

  13. I would have preferred starting 2017 without Mr. Robert Williams esq announcing to the nation on Live TV that he gave up smoking 10 days ago. Not that he shouldn’t, he’s an adult and should make his own choices but the crowd clapping their chapped sheeple hooves at the news…that pissed me right off. And for his next trick he will walk across the Thames.
    If only the Spirit of Xmas Past was Len Cohen’s.

    Happy New year Frank and all and sundry here.

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