Hot on the heels of surgeon general Luther Terry's 1964 finding on the dangers of smoking came this, the most absurd of the Living Strings' "music to do something by" series. Of course, what instrumental songs like "Clair de lune" and "Yellow Bird" have to do with staving off lung cancer is inconsequential -- it's the liner notes that make the persuasive pitch: "Only will power will make you stop smoking. But this music may help your will power." The fact that this music is supposed to "relax you, make you feel good and keep your hand from groping a pack of cigarettes" may lead some more mischievous or bored listeners to grope for something else. Oops! Sorry. Wrong surgeon general.
The Living Strings were a studio orchestra founded in 1959 by RCA Victor for a series of easy listening recordings issued on the RCA Camden budget label... RCA Victor record producer Ethel Gabriel created the "Living Strings" series of albums, which were easy-listening instrumental string versions of popular tunes, the type of music that came to be known pejoratively as elevator music.
There was no actual orchestra known as the Living Strings. The orchestra for most of the recordings was made up of musicians from various British orchestras assembled for the purpose of making the records.
Public health warnings have been printed on cigarette packs since 1966 (in the U.S.). But recently, public health researchers have been wondering whether altering the appearance of the cigarettes themselves might be more effective. In a study published in the 2016 issue of the journal Tobacco Control, New Zealand researchers tested the response of smokers to a variety of “dissuasive cigarettes.”
One of these cigarettes had a “smoking kills” warning printed directly on it. Two others were unpleasant colors: "slimy green" and "faecal yellow-brown." The fourth was printed with a graphic depicting "15 minutes of life lost."
The researchers found that the smokers they surveyed reacted negatively to all four of the dissuasive cigarettes, but had the strongest negative reaction to the "15 minutes of life lost" cigarette:
Respondents were least likely to select an option where the stick featured the 'minutes of life lost' graphic. Relative to the 'typical' stick (the most common and most preferred stick), the 'minutes of life lost' stick was 80% less likely to be chosen (OR=0.21) and nearly four scale points less appealing (-1.32 cf. 2.66)
You might think that ‘opiated hash’ would be marijuana laced with opium. But not so. According to Cincinnati policeman Carl Rauschenberger, in a 1970 interview, it was “droppings from guinea pigs which had been fed marijuana.” Presumably people were smoking these droppings.
The day before the test, [atomic physicist Ted] Taylor rode the elevator to the top of the tower to view his device and to catch a glimpse of the equipment display scattered across the desert below. Nearby, a technician worked to clear a conduit pipe; a rat had somehow managed to wedge itself inside, threatening to ruin the shot. A break in even one circuit, regardless of how minor, would scuttle the detonation.
While Taylor was waiting, he managed to locate a concave, parabolic mirror. After determining the point at which the light would converge, he attached a small wire. The next day, June 1, 1952, he would conduct an experiment of his own.
At 3:50 on June 1, the troops in the trenches were told to kneel and lean against the side of the trench nearest the tower. Five minutes later Scorpion/George ignited with a force of 15 kilotons.
At the Control Point, Ted Taylor aimed his parabolic mirror at the intensely bright, fissioning mass. At the end of the wire he had attached a Pall Mall. In a second or so the concentrated, focused light from the weapon ignited the tip of the cigarette. He had made the world’s first atomic cigarette lighter.
It would have been better if Taylor had first radioed the control tower, "Hey, you guys got a light?" and they radioed back, "Sure." Then detonated the bomb.
A 1955 DoD film demonstrated the concept, without using an actual atomic bomb:
In some parts of the world, people smoke cigarettes by holding the lit end inside their mouth. Apparently this doesn't burn them. In fact, reverse smokers claim that they enjoy the sensation of warmth it creates inside their mouth.
Journal of the American Dental Association - Mar 1976
The cigarette-smoking habits of people in some parts of the world include a variation called reverse smoking, which is accomplished by holding the lighted end of a cigarette or cigar inside the oral cavity. Air is drawn to the burning zone through the unlighted end of a cigarette, and smoke is expelled back through the cigarette or out through the mouth. The smoke is not usually inhaled; however, the ashes are swallowed. Smoke and tar products are allowed to condense on the surfaces of the teeth, palate, and adjacent mucosa. Tobacco tar and smoke that come into contact with the highly vascular moist mucosa contribute to the pleasurable sensation.
Reverse smoking has been reported to occur in the lower economic groups in areas of India, the Caribbean, Sardinia, South America, Korea, and the Philippine Islands. In the Philippine Islands, reverse smoking is referred to as “ bakwe” and is practiced almost exclusively by married women. It is a symbolic indication of the achievement of marital status and represents the responsibility that is peculiar to a married woman, in contrast to the carefree life-style of an unattached maiden. Many look on an unmarried smoker as a woman of easy virtue.
It is noteworthy that in parts of Korea women begin smoking on their 60th birthday, to represent the beginning of their retired life. This signifies wisdom and experience.
Motherhood and housework are the primary reasons why reverse smoking is practiced only by women. It enables the mother to feed and tend to her child without the risk of the infant touching the lighted end of the cigarette. It also eliminates the possibility of ashes dropping on children, eating utensils, clothing that is being washed, and food that is being prepared.
Reverse smokers give several other reasons for indulging in this peculiar habit: it is more pleasurable than conventional smoking; it gives one the feeling of warmth during the rainy season (This may explain why reverse smoking is practiced primarily in equatorial climates, which usually have a long rainy season.); there is no desire to inhale; and the cigarette or cigar lasts longer.
A study by Quigley and others reported that the average time for conventional smoking of a cigarette is four minutes and six seconds, whereas the average time for reverse smoking is seven minutes 42 seconds. Native reverse smokers may retain a single cigarette for as long as 18 minutes.
Journal of the American Dental Association - Apr 1966
Heavy tar buildup inside the mouth of a reverse smoker. Journal of the American Dental Association - Oct 1964
Charles "Mickey" Norman achieved fame in the 1930s, while only a 2-year-old, because of his love of smoking. He was known as the "puffing prodigy." For a few years the media checked back at each of his birthdays and found him still smoking. Then they eventually lost interest... until his 18th birthday, when they checked and found he was still smoking, and quite healthy. The last news story about him I could find was when he was 25. Not clear what became of him after that. He might still be alive. If so, he'd be 87.
St. Louis Star and Times - July 12, 1933
Public Opinion - July 31, 1934
The Hackensack Record - July 29, 1936
Newsweek - Mar 20, 1950
No Ill Effects: At the age of 14 months, Charles (Mickey) Norman of Paterson, N.J., picked up a smoldering cigar from his father’s ash tray and took a few puffs. He liked it. By the age of 3, Mickey was an inveterate stogie smoker—his pictures appeared in papers from Italy to Australia, bringing an avalanche of fan mail. A short time later he announced: “I drink beer.” None of this seemed to have an ill effect. Now a husky, 6-foot-tall auto mechanic of 18, Norman estimates that he has smoked 13,000 cigars, along with pipes and cigarettes.
-Newsweek, Mar 20, 1950
On sale early in the twentieth century. The story is that they were definitely NOT endorsed by the Boy Scouts. Eventually the Scouts got legislation passed making it illegal for companies to use their name.
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.