F.S.C. - Do Not Inhale These!

Here's my old current stuff from July.

If you don't smoke, don't start. Period. End of story. If you do smoke, like I do, then you should read this.

FSC, a.k.a. Fire Safe Cigarettes are to be avoided. This is either another of those thinly disguised attempts to eradicate smoking, or a put-up by insurance companies to limit their pay-outs by regulating the personal lives of their insured. Is your cigarette fire safe? If it came from a pack made in the United States after January, 2010, then the answer is "Yes".

For some reason, maybe one of the above, the government decided to get involved in how a cigarette is manufactured. They have laws about how quickly a cigarette must go out by itself. Why? Because they're trying to prevent all those fires that are started annually by lit cigarettes? Yeah, you know like the Rodeo–Chediski fire. No wait, that was started by some woman who burned a "Dear John" letter. How about the White Tanks fire? No, that one was deliberately started by a government firefighter who was afraid of losing his job so he thought he'd create one. Must be some forest fires somewhere that are started by cigarettes.

Or maybe the new FSCs are to prevent people from lighting themselves up when they fall asleep. There are probably a few briquettes because of that. O.K., let's assume that a new type of cigarette that goes out after a while is going to curb this issue. I'm on board with that. I mean, who wouldn't be? A cigarette that won't start fires. A cigarette that...won't...start...fires? How's that again?

I've got this smoldering ember that is not supposed to transfer its heat to anything it touches. Hrmm. Physics laws be damned! We've got government laws to ban this instead! Full speed ahead!

So, how're they going to do that... I mean violate physics and all? They can't. Take that politicians and the women with too much time on their hands (hereafter known as TWWTMTOTH or twitmoth)! You can't stop heat from spreading, even if you're against Al Gore. (I bet the same people who believe you can make a cold burning cigarette also believe in cold fusion and ecology above people. Hint: people are part of the ecological environment.)

So, after many (Hundreds of thousands of? Millions of?) taxpayer dollars and probably some of the most boring conversations ever held, the idea of cold fire was, at least temporarily, abandoned. Plan B became to make cigarettes go out faster.

Well, tobacco doesn't burn. Quit processing them with chemicals like saltpeter and they go out by themselves. Done deal? No! Of course not. The answer is to add more chemicals, not less. What was I thinking? Why should smoking be safer? Make it more dangerous. That's the answer!

To be fair, twitmoth came up with a set a rules. In a room with no ventilation, a cigarette left lit for one minute must quit burning. Less chemicals? No! More! More! More!

Anyone who smokes or understands tobacco will tell you that tobacco by itself isn't too bad. Even smoking it, while not advised, is not deadly or poisonous. (Really. Don't smoke. It's a nasty, expensive habit. You can get the same effect by running ten miles. No joke, the same endorphin thing that applies to long distance runners applies to cigarette smokers. Not that I am advising anyone to be a long distance runner. They have shorter life spans than smokers.) Add chemicals to the tobacco, though and you've got problems. And even that isn't as bad as the paper used to hold the tobacco. Most of the chemicals that are dangerous come from the burning paper.

So, how does an FSC work? The paper is treated. Already, the glue in paper is the worst part. So what happens with FSCs? More glue is added. More plastic is now burned. Forget second hand smoke, which this makes worse. The first hand stuff that goes into a smoker's lungs is now really vile.

I used to smoke Winston Ultra Lights. According to Winston, they're not using the plastic glue solution (a.k.a. EVA). They're thickening the paper at specific points and that allows them to meet the FSC rules. Call them at 1-800-862-2226 and ask them yourself. Maybe you'll get a different answer.

All I know is that the draw on a Winston is no longer smooth. It lights up alright. You get a puff or two. Then, take a deep breath because if you don't suck hard when the fire gets to one of the thickened rings, you inhale soot instead of a mixture of soot and tobacco. Sound nasty? My mouth felt coated with something slimy, my taste buds were dulled, and the first breath in the morning made my lungs feel like they were being pulled apart.

But, we're smokers and should all die soon anyway, right? I disagree, Twitmoth.

Smokers I've known say that in a mild breeze, the cherry hot end of the FSC will fall off. One guy claimed some hairy car rides as the wind from an open window took the cherry and gave it a little dance around the inside of the car. How's this an FSC? Another guy is wondering if this "improvement" isn't somehow related his recent heart attack.

I'm sure at this point Twitmoth is saying, "Just quit." How very compassionate and unsacrificing...not. Dear Twitmoth, your sense of a personal agenda should not be forced upon others. Add to this the fact that the solution is dangerous and...Twitmoth? You should be arrested. The tobacco companies shouldn't be let off the hook either.

One smoker called a company other than R.J. Reynolds and was basically dismissed with the advice, "Call your Congressman." Uh, I don't like the FSC law. I think it's an MTV-does-government type of law. Yes, it should be repealed. But that doesn't absolve the cigarette manufacturers from damaging their customers through the expeditious implementation of a harmful solution.

Tobacco companies like R.J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, etc. have decided that all cigarettes should be FSCs because it's cheaper for them to make one type of cigarette rather than different types for different states. So, even states that aren't requiring FSCs only sell FSCs. That goes for all of the Canadian provinces and countries of Europe as well. The last I heard, Mexico still offered non-FSCs. Imagine illegal immigrants hauling in non-FSCs instead of marijuana. There's a cheaper fine and only a slightly smaller profit ratio associated.

What can smokers do? "Quit," suggests Twitmoth in all seriousness and gives the matter no further thought. "What?" you say. "Quit? Why I, uh, never thought of that before! What a concept? You mean that all I have to do is stop? What a unique and novel idea! You should receive the Nobel peace prize!"

Here's my advice...

  1. Go to "smokersrites.com". They've got a petition.
  2. Call and/or write the federal Congress members of your state.
  3. Call and/or write the Senate members of your state.
  4. Call and/or write the state representative. You know, the elected officials who don't go to Washington like the governor and the state congressional members.
  5. Call and/or write your tobacco company and complain.
  6. The above will get you nowhere unless you have millions of dollars, but you must make your opinion heard. The real solution is to start rolling or making your own (MYO). Thanks to taxes, this is no longer cheaper than buying pre-made cigarettes. But, the papers used for MYOs aren't poisonous. (Yes, I consider the effects of the paper used in FSCs to be comparable to being poisoned.) After three days of smoking MYOs, which taste much better than any manufactured cigarette, my coughing subsided and my taste buds came back. (Turns out I was using too much salt.) It's a little extra work to pack the tobacco and inject it into a tube, but well worth the effort. I can whip out 20 cigarettes in just under ten minutes – compare that with a trip to the Circle K. Also, you think twice about lighting one up now because replacing it involves making one more MYO. I started by filling Zig-Zag light filter tubes with Zig-Zag light tobacco using a Top injector. It's a low investment, so check it out.

A couple of asides...

  1. Zig-Zag tobacco is cigarette cut. It packs well and injects well. For someone just starting out in the world of MYO, it's a good way to get the feel for amounts to use and actions to perform. The result is stronger than an Ultra Light, but very tasty.
  2. If your injector jams, it may be due to one of the following:
    1. You're using too much tobacco.
    2. The tobacco is too wet. If you're packing a cigarette with pipe tobacco, let the tobacco dry for an hour or so before you attempt to inject it.
    3. The cut is wrong. Cigarette cut tobacco should be in little strands not more than a quarter to a half inch in length. Shorter than that and it's dust that needs to be mixed in. Longer and you end up with a smoldering punk of a smoke.
    4. The tobacco isn't clean. Sometimes there are stems and rigid parts of the tobacco plant mixed in with the leaves. Remove anything stiff.
  3. Bali and Stockabye are shag cut tobaccos. They can be used for cigarette or pipe tobacco. Shag tobacco is stringy and packs differently than cigarette cut tobacco. It will even expand in the cigarette tube. Use a little more than you would of regular tobacco. Pack it tighter. (Bali, even their light tobacco, is cloying.)
  4. Shag tobacco from a freshly opened pouch is too wet for an injector. Let it dry out a bit before use. Or mix it with American Spirit. One part American Spirit and three parts shag.
  5. The Bali shag tobacco is cut in long strings. You'll have to break them up for a decent cigarette. While waiting for them to dry, grab a handful and start pinching off little bits of about a quarter inch in length. Otherwise, your cigarette will burn like you've lit up a stick of packed wood pulp.
  6. American Spirit original blend isn't too bad. It's a medium shag cigarette cut tobacco. You don't have to do anything but pack and inject it. It's pretty strong. A light version may be worth checking out. The flavor is similar to that of cigarettes manufactured about twenty years ago like the old Sir Walter Raleighs when they came with coupons.
  7. Tobacco remnants can be purchased. They're the very devil to work with, but the result is a very, very light smoke.
  8. There's a site called "Custom Blends" that sells good tobacco. Check them out. But buy before the law banning internet tobacco sales between states is put into effect.

A quick thing on tobacco...

There are three primary types of tobacco that go into American cigarettes.

  1. Burley tobacco. This is the dark brown tobacco. Depending upon the cut, this is also pipe tobacco. Try a Galoise. I think of Galoise tobacco as being pipe cut (i.e. long and wide) strands of burley tobacco. It's heavy and cloying. Too much of this and you'll think you're inhaling syrup.
  2. Virginia tobacco. This is also called "brightleaf", "blond", and "Virginia blond" tobacco. It's very light, almost yellow, tobacco. If you've ever had an "Export A", then you know what Virginia blond tastes like. It's flavorful but sharp. Too much of this and your lungs will feel like you're inhaling needles.
  3. Oriental tobacco. Say what? I'm not too sure what this is either. All I know is that it's like the Merlot of the tobacco world. It's not meant to be stand alone but it nicely buffers the stronger flavors of burley and blond.
  4. Most American tobacco is a mix of all three. Primarily Oriental with a generous helping of stout burley and just a pinch of spicy blond is how I perceive it. Cigarettes like Camel straights use Turkish tobacco, so the above list isn't all inclusive.