On Saturday I received a couple coupons and other fun stuff from Sante Fe Tobacco Company, makers of Natural American Spirit cigarettes, so today I’m going to tell you why I roll my own cigarettes. What does that have to do with writing, you may well ask. Everything. Smoking has long been a part of literary tradition.
So why do I roll my own when pre-packed cigarettes are quite readily available?
Hand-rolled cigarettes are less expensive. My savings is not as great as it once was because prices on American Spirit leaf tobacco recently shot up 30% in Tulsa (something about a distribution center closing and increased transport costs), but a pouch of tobacco with 50 papers is still less expensive than 2 packs of 20 cigarettes (40 total). My overall savings is about 20%.
The flavor is MUCH better, and since I’m a snob, that’s a big deal. Most brands use significantly higher quality product for loose tobacco than for pre-packed cigarettes. American Spirit, the brand I smoke, is one of the few exceptions. They use high-quality tobacco in both applications; quality is one of their selling points, along with use of natural and organic tobacco. But even in this case the loose tobacco has larger leaves, less chance of being dry upon arrival, and doesn’t have to compete with the foam filter. Once you’ve had unfiltered cigarettes, pre-packed or hand-rolled, you’ll realize how much flavor hindrance the filter causes.
They’re better for the environment. So this may be an argument built on conjecture and bullshit, but hear me out. Loose tobacco is more likely to be additive-free. Having just tobacco instead of tobacco plus a chemistry lab must be better for the environment (and less bad for the smoker). Also, when you consider that billions of discarded cigarette filters litter our street, a biodegradable option (it’s only paper and tobacco) is better. We should still try to extinguish our smokes in ash trays when available, though.
The primary, and most poetic, reason is process. I find a certain romance in deliberate processes. In writing, I want a satisfactory finished product, of course, but I cherish each step that gets me there: first draft, second draft, peer review, third draft,…fiftieth draft, etc. I hope this concept shows in my poem, “Communion,” which uses rolling and smoking a cigarette as a metaphor for the writing process.
Well, I’m going to step outside and indulge now. Smoke ‘em if you’ve got ‘em.