I DO NOT PARTICULARLY LIKE CIGARETTE SMOKE, THOUGH I GREW UP IN THE HEART of tobacco country. I was born in and lived for the first 24 years of my life in Winston-Salem, NC and believe it or not, attended R.J. Reynolds High School. My father smoked in the house all my life. He smoked Camels, and in fact I still have the last pack of newly-opened Camels he had in his pocket when he died in 1977.

We all know that smoking tobacco causes various forms of cancer, lung disease, and I’m not even going to mention how annoying and harmful the smoke is to those who do not smoke.
And the nicotine is super addictive. But I have a theory about smoking addiction I am going to throw out there—and let me know if you think I am off base. I believe that part of the addiction is the ritual of opening a new pack of cigarettes. Without knowing it, smokers actually enjoy and look forward to the process of opening a new pack. The cigarettes are fresh and this process I am about to explain delays your satisfaction just long enough—I contend, to actually awaken a smoker’s taste buds and build anticipation. I’ll explain:

First of all, cigarettes are beautifully packaged. When you pick up a pack to open it, you are holding quite a beautiful little object—years of thought, design, sales strategy and manufacturing technology have gone into that single pack of cigarettes. It’s like opening a little gift.
The first part of the ritual is to hit the bottom of the entire pack of cigs in the palm of your hand a few times, I guess to loosen the cigarettes and drive them slightly to the top of the pack. This is just a warm up exercise for the real shaking yet to come.

Next, comes the unwrapping, which always has a step-by-step process. Completely covered by cellophane, it’s tightly wrapped to seal in the flavor.
At the top of the pack is a colored band, loose on one end. You are to find it, and pull it around the circumference of the pack, releasing the top cap of the cellophane, which usually falls away to the bar top or floor. Now, as the cellophane band has released the top, the final step of the process is about to begin: you are just one step away from seeing your little beauties. They await you. This is the part where you may tear into the neatly folded top. Go ahead, rip into it!

Two rows of ten cigarettes fit in the pack as tight as sardines. They never disappoint. They are NEVER out of line. Twenty little circles, representing the “tobacco end” of the cigarettes await your selection and consumption. They are yours. Then, you go through the real “entire pack shake” to get one or more cigarettes to raise their little heads from the others. Who wants to go first? You make your selection and away you go—ready to light the lucky volunteer, which is yet another part of the ritual.

These beautiful, foreign cigarette packages were found on Flickr.