Within the first month of my return to New York, I was running out of cigarettes, the cheap North Carolina smokes I'd brought with me. My aunt was going grocery shopping one day, and offered to get a carton for me, since the supermarkets weren't within convenient walking distance. She asked what brand to get, and I told her to just get the cheapest generic non-filters she could find.

She came back with a carton of Pyramid non-filters, $28 -- about $10 more than I was used to paying down south, but a bargain by NYC standards. I noticed something different about the carton; it had the usual logos, manufacturer info (Liggett Group, of Durham, NC), and Surgeon General's warnings, but there was also a sticker listing the ingredients in the product. Once the carton was finished, rather than throw it away, I thought I'd save it, and node it. That was almost a year ago, but I just found the old box today, whilst searching for a couple of books in my apartment. I never really looked at the ingredients until now; here they are...

INGREDIENTS: Blended Tobacco, Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Glycerol, Propylene Glycol, Sucrose, Invert Sugar, Casing Flavors, Natural and Artificial Licorice Flavor, Artificial Tobacco Flavors, Valerian Root Extract, Molasses Extract, Castoreum Tincture, Diethyl Sebacate, Phenethyl Isovalerate, Isoamyl Phenylacetate, Isovaleric Acid, Phenethyl Butyrate, gamma-Undecalactone, Cedarwood Oil, Phenylacetic Acid, Ethyl Vanillin, Maltol, Para-Methoxybenzaldehyde, Patchouli Oil, Hexanoic Acid, Vetiver Oil, Olibanum Oil, 3-Methylpentanoic Acid, Ethyl Cinnamate, Benzaldehyde, Denatured Rum, Denatured Ethanol.

I have, since then, tried a pack of Natural American Spirit non-filters -- 100% ADDITIVE-FREE TOBACCO, as it says underneath the logo -- but didn't enjoy the taste all that much. I was left wanting some of that ethyl cinnnamate, benzaldehyde, and castoreum tincture I'd been missing. So much for all-natural. I've searched, on and off, for about 10 years, for a replacement for the unique old-style Pall Malls that I used to love, after their manufacturer, Brown & Williamson, changed their formula to little-better-than-generic; I've yet to find anything close, aside from Nat Sherman Cigarettellos, whose pluses -- distinctive brown color, nice taste, and slowness of burn (ideal for stretching out those cigarette breaks at work) -- are sunk by the minus of the absence of the nicotine hit that one can get from even the lowliest generic cig. I smoke what I've been smoking since the loss of my beloved Pall Malls -- Basic (from Philip Morris), diethyl sebacate be dammed.

Actually, the long list of long-named ingredients is, at a glance (a background in fine arts and math -- no chemistry -- makes me ill-prepared to laugh off newfound phrases like "phenethyl butyrate" with a hearty "that's just good ol' malt flavorin', under a fancy sci-en-tific name!"), a little scary. Kids, don't try this at home.