Rolling Tobacco

There are two reasons people smoke cigarettes.  The first reason is to support their federal, state and local governments with vast amounts of tax revenue. The second reason is so they can look cool & start conversations with beautiful strangers.

Because taxes on packs of cigarettes are so high in California, Libertarians and do-it-yourselfers sometimes turn to the tax-free alternative: rolling their own.

On Thursday night, Steven and Elise came by and helped me measure how many cigarettes we could get out of a pouch of rolling tobacco.

We bought a 1.41oz (40g)  packet of Drum "Excellent Handrolling Tobacco" for US$3.57

That is about 32 for an eighth. (In Istanbul, at the end of 2001, I found loose tobacco selling for US$2.95 per pound)

The packet included 50 rolling papers too! Perfect for gift-giving!

We emptied the packet onto a plate and examined it..

The shredded  leaves came out of the envelope in a brown clump. Steve said it looked like peat moss.

Mike and Steven sat down and began making beautiful tax-free cigarettes.
Having traveled all over the globe as a child, Steven became an expert at "origami", the ancient Japanese art of cigarette rolling.

Authentic Japanese rolling is done with thin sheets of dried seaweed known as "nori". Of course, that stuff probably causes cancer, so he used the paper.

First he prepared one of the little papers between his fingers, sprinkling tobacco into the fold. Next he began coaxing the leaf particles into a little log. 

When the tobacco was resting quietly within the paper, he licked the top edge of the paper and glued the tobacco inside, sealing in the freshness.

If you want to lace your cigarettes with Angel Dust, do it before that last step.

Here is a new photo of Elise posing with the finished cigarette. You might think that a hand-crafted old world-style cigarette would cost $8-10, but incredibly, the single package of Drum had enough for lots and lots of cigarettes like this!
Of course, Steven made it look easy, rolling one after another. Mike was good at it too.


Elise was getting the hang of it.


I consider myself to be pretty good with my hands, but when I tried, I found there was a lot I didn't know about rolling cigarettes. The paper kept ripping, the tobacco wouldn't settle into a log, and loose tobacco dust was getting everywhere.

Apparently there is a complex chemical compound in cigarette smoke that increases motor skills.

You can also buy complicated machines to help you roll them.

I've included this photo of myself because it is a GREAT photo of me! Look at that! Look how sophisticated I look, you know why? That's right! The cigarette! It is working!

Now vogue.

After about an hour, all the useable tobacco was rolled up. We had made 51 three-inch unfiltered cigarettes.


I called licking the plate.

One hazard of rolling your own cigarettes is that you can roll them too tight. Be careful not to collapse a lung while trying to suck air through one of these babies.

Real cigarette manufacturers use robots and lasers, so their cigarettes are perfect every time. With slightly updated software, those exact same robots can perform throat surgery!


In California, a pack of cigarettes costs about $5. That is about 25 each.

Our hand rolled cigarettes cost 7 each. So if you smoke just 9 packs a day, you could save $957 per month by rolling your own cigarettes.

Depending on where you live, it may soon be cheaper to hire someone to roll your cigarettes rather than pay for pre-assembled ones. Of course, you'd have to pay for his silk hat and costume, but it would be extremely classy.

Look how much money we are saving! It is intoxicating!

You can't see it, but we are leaning on a new BMW in this photo.

If I ever start smoking cigarettes, I'll definitely learn to hand-roll them. I'll probably learn how to inhale too.


Not long after posting this story, I heard from Mr. Helicopter, who claimed englishmen got more cigarettes from their tobacco.
I told him to prove it...COCKEYED STYLE!

Cigarette smoking is dangerous in a very subtle way. It can also make you look old. Avoid smoking and keep healthy to enjoy a long life.
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