Had you asked me what I thought of tobacco and smoking when I was 10 or 12 years old, I would have told you that I hated smoking. It was gross, it smelled bad, and although my grasp of the value of money at that age was poor, I somehow knew that it was expensive. My father would at times send me to my uncle’s gas station where there was a vending machine to buy him a pack of cigarettes. If I remember correctly, they were 45 cents a pack. That was far more than the 5 or 10 cents I was sometimes given to buy a candy bar.
My goodness. I can’t believe how much I love tobacco today. Especially in the forms which I have allowed myself to participate in. Cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. Smoking and dipping.
When I was young and foolish, I despised cigarettes. Dipping was rare where I lived, but there were a few teenagers and men around that did it. My father smoked cigarettes. And he appeared to my young mind to smoke a lot. As I got older and paid better attention to things, I learned that he smoked just over a pack per day of his unfiltered Pall Malls. I hated how cigarette smoke smelled. I hated how, once lit, the smoke filled up the entire room. I hated when the smoke drifted towards me. I disliked that I really couldn’t escape the smell and breathing in the smoke from his smoldering cigarettes – in the car, in the house, everywhere. When a cigarette was lit around me, I would make a great production of waving my arms to dispel the smoke away from me. My mother also smoked, as did most of my aunts and uncles. Family gatherings meant that all of the adults would sit around the table smoking at whatever relative’s house we were visiting, talking and playing cards, and the amount of smoke was greatly multiplied. All of us kids were surrounded by a foul white cloud. I really couldn’t get away from the horrible stench. I used to cough and wave my hands whenever smoke drifted towards me.
Something changed when I turned 13. I saw more and more of the boys at school smoking. Some of my older cousins began to take up the habit. I became fascinated watching my father smoke. And somewhere, somehow, my disgust turned into curiosity. I began to notice the cigarette ads everywhere, in the newspaper, in magazines, and on billboards. (Cigarette advertising had disappeared from television by this time, but I remember seeing cigarette ads on TV when I was very young.) I was intrigued by the pictures of the men smoking that I saw in the advertisements in Boys Life and Parade magazines. I couldn’t yet name the emotions of envy and desire that stirred within me when I saw these ads or men and boys smoking. I wasn’t consciously aware of the raw, masculine sexuality that I was seeing. But my feelings about smoking turned around a full 180-degrees. I still wasn’t sure about the smell, but I certainly was curious about what it might be like to actually smoke.
Getting the Itch
We were not people of means, and family vacations were not something we could afford. But the grownups would arrange for my cousins and I to “go on vacation” to each other’s houses in the summer. My mother was one of five in her family, and each of her siblings had a minimum of four children. So there were lots of cousins, and lots of other houses to visit for “vacation.” Each summer we kids would stay at each other’s homes for a week or so “on vacation.” This usually meant that there was a new playmate around my same age that WASN’T my brothers or my silly sister who was six years my junior.
The summer I was 13 one of my cousins of the same age spent time at our house. Somehow or other the topic of smoking came up between us, and we admitted to each other that we both wanted to smoke someday. That summer we had a secret game of pretend smoking. Living on a farm, there were always building materials lying about. And we took to “smoking” nails as practice, out of sight of my brothers. We would hold the nails between our fingers as a smoker would hold a cigarette. We’d place them in our mouths and pretend that we were smoking – making a great production of sucking on them and then “exhaling,” forcing air between our pursed lips. Looking back on it, it was a pretty weird thing to do.
Summer passed. Each of us returned to our own homes as school began. And I lost my “smoking” buddy. But something had been kindled inside of me with the games that we had played. That September I smoked my first real cigarette that I had stolen out of one of my father’s open packs. It was a non-filtered Pall Mall. Being afraid that I might cough and choke with it, I snuck away and did my little experiment alone. I wasn’t too keen on the taste of that first cigarette. But I immediately noticed that the smell of it wasn’t nearly as bad now that I was the one doing the smoking. I wasn’t completely put off by the experience, and I decided that this was something that I wanted to do again soon.
Scratching the Itch
And I did do it again. As often as possible for someone who was stealing cigarettes from his parents and was trying to smoke them in secret – to get “good” at smoking before going public with my habit. I didn’t smoke often from age 13 to 16. I was still hiding it from my siblings. It was important for me to maintain my Good Boy image. So stealing cigarettes and smoking them in private became a hidden passion and pleasure.
In early adolescence I knew the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ I was a ‘good’ boy. I was very good at school. And I liked to please the adults in my life: parents, teachers, and aunts and uncles. I was obedient.
Hiding my smoking even from my siblings, led to some funny exchanges with them. They confronted me more than once, accusing me of smoking because I wasn’t particularly good at hiding. I’d deny it. And so it went. While I might have been waiting to get “good” at smoking before going public, I continued to try and hide the fact that I was doing it. But my practice with those purloined Pall Malls led to increased proficiency. I learned to inhale more forcefully, to hold the smoke in my lungs longer, and to control my exhales in a way that I thought suited my idea of getting “good” at smoking.
At 16 I decided I was good enough at smoking and finally worked up the nerve to ask my father for a cigarette one evening when he and I were alone in the living room watching TV. While I had asked for a single cigarette, my father gave me a whole pack. And that was it. I publicly started smoking Pall Mall non-filters just like him. The Marlboros came several years later when a cousin offered me one. I decided I liked it better than the Pall Malls which were always leaving flakes of tobacco on my tongue. The Marlboros were cleaner, neater than my Pall Malls, and it’s what most of the other kids at school were smoking. Within several months I was a sixteen year old pack-a-day smoker. Despite all my fuss and bother about smoking when I was younger, I loved it. None of my siblings ever took up the habit.
As the years rolled by, I continued to smoke. It wasn’t until I was an adult and a homeowner that I revisited dipping tobacco. In the summer there was a lot of outdoor work to do, tending the gardens, mowing the lawn. I took to dipping on occasion while doing the latter. It wasn’t an everyday thing. It was an occasional treat when working outside and my hands were too busy to hold a cigarette. I rarely finished a tin, and I would usually throw it away after it had become dried and stale. It was reading the thread, “I Am A Dipper Now Too,” by jakesmks that gave me the impetus to try dipping again and to give it a good go. I didn’t need to ‘try’ dipping, because I had already toyed and experimented with it from time to time. I wanted to begin to do it as a habit – both as a way to increase my nicotine consumption and to see if it was as addictive as everyone said it was.
Physical & Mental Addiction
That I am physically addicted to nicotine goes without saying. If I go too long without it I get cranky and irritable. On occasion when I’ve been forced to do without for a prolonged period of time, my stomach can get upset, and I get constipated. I get headaches. There are times when I feel “jittery,” a small tremor in my hands that I’ve attributed to nicotine withdrawal. My mental addiction is also strong. I think about smoking all the time, especially when I’m in a place where I can’t do it. There are moments when the desire – the NEED for a cigarette – is nearly unbearable. And I’ve begun to have cravings for dip as well. Not as strong as those I have for cigarettes. But I have them. And as all users of tobacco know, there is nothing quite like the satisfaction of relieving a strong craving like lighting a cigarette or throwing in a dip. I have many “triggers,” outside stimuli, that increase my desire for nicotine. When I’m out and about, if I catch a whiff of cigarette smoke wafting on the breeze from another cigarette smoker, this reminds me that a cigarette might be good just now. In enclosed spaces, especially if I haven’t smoked for a while, I catch the scent of tobacco smoke on the clothes of other smokers that might have just had one. This makes me think of having a cigarette myself. The sight of a man smoking a cork tipped cigarette, taking a deep drag into his chest is beautiful. Just the sight of the iconic red and white Marlboro pack is another trigger. And who can forget walking around and looking at other men’s asses and seeing the tell-tale circular dip ring in the rump pocket of a tight pair of their ass-hugging jeans.
Dipping and increased nicotine intake.
Everything I’ve read says that to hold a dip in one’s mouth for 30 minutes is the equivalent of the nicotine intake from four or five cigarettes. Of course since the size of a dip is completely controlled by the dipper, the actual amount of nicotine will vary with the size of the dip. I’ve been putting in what I consider to be rather large amounts every time I “lipper-up.” If I’m averaging only the equivalent of five cigarettes per dip, and I do it twice each evening, that would be the equivalent of adding ten cigarettes (half-a-pack!) to my daily nicotine intake. I can’t even imagine the nicotine quantity contained in an entire tin of dip. But guys that say that they dip a tin a day are taking in quite a bit of nicotine. No wonder dip is often said to be ‘more addictive’ than smoking when one considers the nicotine intake of a tin-a-day-man equivalent in cigarettes consumed.
Many of my tins read, “Warning: Smokeless tobacco is addictive.” I certainly hope so. Otherwise, what’s the point? Having a tobacco habit is fantastic. I’ve willing given up the freedom of choice twice in my lifetime over tobacco products. First as a teenager with cigarettes. And in this past year with dip.
Tobacco is so wonderful. Simple. Not a particularly good looking plant, Nicotiana tabacum, botanically speaking. But Oh! Those leaves, and what they contain. First and foremost, nicotine. The ingredient that makes consumption of the leaves, in whatever method, so enjoyable, pleasant, and yes, addictive. When I am unsettled or anxious, it calms me down. When I am tired or distracted, it helps me be more focused and attentive. I am glad that tobacco exists for me to smoke or to suck on a lip full of the stuff.