I gave her a cigarette and lit a match and held it for her. She drew in a lungful of smoke and let it out raggedly. . . . --Philip Marlowe describing client's daughter, Vivian Regan (The Big Sleep, 1939:225)
With men in the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard, the favorite cigarette is Camel. (Based on actual sales records.) --Camel advertisement on back cover page of Life magazine (July 10, 1944)
Usage I: Nicotine "speaks" directly to the brain as an incoming nonverbal cue. Currently, there is a worldwide epidemic of nicotine use.
Usage II: According to a 1999 World Health Organization estimate, there are four million deaths a year from tobacco. Based on present smoking trends, tobacco is predicted to be the leading cause of disease in the world, causing ca. one in eight deaths.
Usage III: 1. Nine out of 10 human beings who smoke a cigarette for the first time become addicted, according to statistics of the U.S. National Institutes on Drug Administration. 2. According to a trade publication, Tobacco Reporter, the average American cigarette smoker buys ten packs of 20 cigarettes per week. 3. Worldwide, a third of all adults (36%) smoke cigarettes--and are hopelessly addicted to nicotine.
Usage IV. According to a March, 2001 study published in Preventive Medicine (Vol. 32, pp. 262-67), the use of smokeless (i.e., chewing) tobacco is a predictor of later cigarette-smoking initiation in young U.S. adult males.
Usage V. Cigarettes may be used as antidepressive drugs. It has been proposed that chronic smoking has an antidepressant-like effect on the brain, which could explain why so many depressed people smoke--and are unable to quit (see research by University of Mississippi Medical Center [Jackson] psychiatrist, Gregory A. Ordway and colleagues in Archives of General Psychiatry , Vol. 58, 2001, pp. 821-27).
Evolution. Nicotine evolved as a communicative sign, i.e., as an insect-repelling secondary product.
Early history. 1492: "Almost from the day of first landfall, on October 12, 1492, the inhabitants of Guanahani (San Salvador, Bahamas) regaled the newcomers with such herbs [i.e., tobacco plants]. And upon encountering near Fernandia Island a man in a small canoe carrying the same plant material among his meager essentials, Christopher Columbus surmised that the Indians held the leaves in high esteem" (Wilbert 1987:9).
Later history. 1797: Cigarettes appear when Cuban cigar makers roll little cigars in paper wrappers (Trager 1992:354). 1883: Gold Flake cigarettes appear in London (Trager 1992:567). 1885: Thomas Edison, a tobacco chewer, refuses to hire tobacco smokers (Trager 1992:585). 1925: Old Gold cigarettes appear, with the slogan, "Not a cough in a carload" (Trager 1992:773). 1955: U.S. cigarette consumption increases as media ads promote filter-tipped Winstons, king-size Tareytons with "activated charcoal" filters, and Marlboro filters (Trager 1992:953).
Literature. For, like his nose, his [the Pequod's second mate, Stubb's] short, black little pipe was one of the regular features of his face. --Herman Melville, Moby Dick (1980 :125)
Media. In the U.S. the advertising of cigarettes on television was banned in 1971, "abruptly removing one of the major categories of broadcast income" (Jankowski and Fuchs 1995:106).
Mr. Potato Head. In 1987, Hasbro's Mr. Potato Head quit smoking (after 35 years) and handed over his signature plastic pipe to then U.S. Surgeon General, C. Everett Coop at a press conference for the Great American Smokeout (Hoffman 1996). (N.B.: Both tobacco and potato plants belong to the nightshade family [see SHELLFISH TASTE, Prehistory].)
E-Commentary: "Just spent a pleasant couple of hours with The Nonverbal Dictionary. I especially like how you've used media examples. However, I feel that smoking has a much richer communicative value than you've documented. Bogie was the premier artist at communicating with his stogie." --K. G. (10/1/01 12:20:24 PM Pacific Daylight Time)
Neuro-notes. 1. Nicotine ". . . mimics the neurotransmitter acetylcholine by acting at the acetylcholine site and stimulating the nerve cell dendrite" (Restak 1995:116). Nicotine leads to the release of pleasure-enhancing dopamine and morphine-like endorphins. 2. "In both mice and humans, they [Joseph R. DiFranza, University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, and others] say, the number of high-affinity nicotinic cholinergic receptors has been seen to increase in the brain after only the second dose of nicotine" (Cooke 2000).