Firstly: never smoke.
You will stink, you will probably die, you will
break the hearts of those who love you, and you will learn what it is
to truly hate yourself. You will try to quit one day, and you
will fail, and know how crushing
it feels to be bested by a chemical. At some point, you
will probably even contemplate smoking an unfinished butt you spot in
a gutter. If you want to be lowered to this, then there's most likely
a tobacco dealer in your area who can help you out.
Assuming that you do want to destroy your life, here's an outline of
Selecting a cigarette
This, of course, is a matter of personal taste. The first question is
whether to roll your own or smoke tailor-made cigarettes;
read the advantages of hand rolled cigarettes
for a good discussion of the pros and cons in this area. If
you do decide to smoke hand-rolled cigarettes, you should read
how to roll a cigarette
or rolling cigarettes for a description of the required technique.
Choosing between cigarette brands is largely a matter of image. Look
at their advertisements, and take note of the style of person
you see smoking particular brands. Of course, taste plays a role also:
you may find a brand which actually tastes good to you, however it's
unlikely because they all taste like shit.
Regarding the strength of your poison, weaker cigarettes are
perhaps better because they kill you more slowly (although some studies show that smokers inhale more deeply from weak cigarettes, thus annulling the "benefits"). Unless you've
already developed a taste for heavy tar-filled suicide sticks,
choose a low-strength cigarette. Note that hand-rolled cigarettes are
stronger than just about anything else.
Getting ready to smoke
Roll your cigarette if that's what you do.
If smoking factory-made cigarettes, you may want to pack them
more tightly by holding the packet upside-down and tapping it vigorously,
thereby causing the tobacco to settle towards the filter end of the
cigarette. If you're largely smoking to look cool, draw a cigarette
out of the pack using only one hand: flip the lid up with your index
finger, push a cigarette slightly upwards with your thumb, then
grab it with your lips and slide it out.
If smoking outside, wind is your constant enemy. If you can't find an
alcove to shelter you, turn your back to the wind so that your torso
acts as a windbreak, hunch over slightly and cup your hand closely
around the cigarette to shield it. Light a flame. If using a match,
let it burn for a second or two before lighting the cigarette,
otherwise your first drag will taste
like sulfur. If using a Zippo, read gyp's writeup here to
learn some cool ways to light it. While sucking in--use reasonable
force unless smoking hand-rolled cigarettes, which usually
light very easily---apply the flame just to the very tip of the
The cigarette should be horizontal; don't let it point toward
the ground, otherwise the flame will engulf far more of the cigarette
than is necessary, which wastes tobacco and makes it harder to light.
You can stop sucking once the tip glows orange.
If it doesn't seem to be burning well, you don't necessarily need to
light it again; instead, blow through the cigarette, then
suck, then blow again; repeat until fully alight.
An alternative method is just to hold the cigarette in your hand and
light it without simultaneously sucking. This works well enough with
hand-rolled cigarettes, but tailor-made cigarettes are trickier and
you may have to hold them in the flame for some time and rotate them
slowly before they light.
Make an airtight seal around the cigarette with your lips and breathe
in to fill your mouth with smoke. At this point a common mistake is to
exhale without ever drawing the smoke into your lungs--where I live
we refer to this, for no discernible reason, as "bumpuffing". It's the
safest way to smoke if you simply want to be seen smoking; however if
you want to actually feel the effects of nicotine then you'll need
to continue breathing in for a second after removing the cigarette
from your mouth, thus filling your lungs with smoke. Hold it in there
for a while before exhaling, since this gives the chemicals time to
soak into your bloodstream. (If you're smoking something more
expensive than cigarettes, like marijuana, then you should delay
your exhalation for as long as is comfortable after each drag.)
Unless you're in a movie or picking a fight, breathe your smoke out in
a direction which avoids other people's faces. In a crowded room this
may mean tilting your head backwards and blowing at the ceiling. For
variety, and to increase your risk of nasal cancer, you can breathe it
out through your nose.
Stop smoking the cigarette before the flame reaches the filter.
If you strain to extract every last drag from it, you'll probably
start burning the filter and breathing whatever deadly fumes it emits
upon combustion. (The alert reader should note the
irony of advising smokers to avoid "deadly fumes".)
If smoking indoors, find an ashtray or empty bottle to ash into
before you light up. There are a few methods commonly employed to
dislodge ash from the end of a cigarette. Gently tapping a finger on
top of the cigarette looks quite stylish, however you run the risk of bending
or breaking it if you misjudge the force required. A better method is
to smoke with the filter clamped between your index and middle
fingers, and to ash by flicking the filter end with your thumb (press
down on the part you suck, then allow your thumb to slide off so that
the filter snaps back up, causing the burning end to snap downwards).
mkb informs me that another method seen in Europe is to slowly rub the cigarette against the edge of the ashtray.
If the ash stubbornly refuses to fall (this will happen more often with
hand-rolled cigarettes), then you can push it off with your finger,
which smears but will not burn your skin.
When you're done smoking, put the cigarette out completely by grinding
it into the ashtray. Smokers commonly underestimate the effort required
by this task, so double-check that it's out before leaving it there to
smoulder and pollute the air after you're gone. Similarly, if smoking
outdoors and throwing the butt onto the ground, either aim for a
puddle or grind it out underfoot. If walking while smoking, you can
throw the butt slightly ahead of you, then land your next step on top
of it and twist the foot as it lands to extinguish the cigarette
without breaking step. (Of course, you will choose not to litter in any case; the disrespect you have for your own lungs need not be extended to the planet as a whole.)
There are various ways to make yourself look cooler while shortening
your life. One of the more difficult is documented in the node how to
blow smoke rings. As already mentioned, the Zippo writeup describes
showy ways to light up. If you're not concerned about starting unwanted
fires, you can learn to launch the butt away in a glowing arc by
flicking your index finger against your thumb. Some spectators, obviously
unaware of the distinction between lungs and stomach, may be impressed
if you take a sip of alcohol (what else would you drink whilst
smoking?) between inhalation and exhalation of smoke. Varying the rhythm
or direction or intensity with which
you blow out smoke can create several visually pleasing effects
if imaginatively done. True exhibitionists may want to practise
throwing an unlit cigarette and catching it between their lips.
However, you should carefully observe a twelve-year-old smoking in an
alley, or a cancer victim inserting a cigarette into the manmade hole in his
windpipe, before imagining that anything you do while smoking looks
Tips and traps
Apart from slow death, many challenges await the budding smoker:
- On windy days, you'll find that unsheltered cigarettes burn away
very quickly even while you're not sucking on them. Avoid the problem by
holding the cigarette with the burning end towards your palm, thus
shielding it with your hand. (Holding cigarettes like this is also
important in tightly crowded places, since it inhibits you from burning holes
- Cigarettes with tears in the paper are hard to smoke but shouldn't
necessarily be thrown away. It is often sufficient to cover the hole
with a finger while smoking. If you have cigarette papers, then you
can create a paper bandage by tearing off the sticky strip from the
paper, licking it and wrapping it around the damaged part of your
- Cigarettes which are lit from a candle's flame often won't burn. To
risk wasting a cigarette, try it for yourself: the vapour from the candle
somehow seals the end of the cigarette, and no end of sucking will help
you. The only solution is to cut or tear off the end of the cigarette and
- If the only cigarette on hand is too weak for your taste, you can
strengthen its intensity by shortening or removing the filter.
Various rules of thumb have been quoted (e.g., "halving the length of the
filter doubles the strength") but probably shouldn't be trusted as
If you smoke for more than a day or two, you will become addicted.
No-one is immune. Nicotine is widely considered to be more addictive
than heroin, as evidenced by the very small proportion of smokers who
manage to quit successfully. Before long, smoking ceases to be
pleasurable and is simply a chore which must be performed to ward off
unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. However, products such as nicotine patches
very effectively reduce cravings, and can make quitting quite bearable.