Not even one

There is an American tobacco brand called American Spirit. Rolling baccy and readymades. They are available in the UK although you might need to get them by mail order because (certainly round here) nobody has heard of them.

They are apparently very good, but are the UK ones the same as the US ones? Well, someone offered to send both myself and Roobedoo a pack of the US American Spirit cigarettes to try out. We could compare them to the UK ones, although at £10 a pack, the UK ones wouldn’t be a regular smoke. Not for me at least.

So, one pack of cigarettes in a package. Will they be allowed through? One pack cannot be considered smuggling. Keep in mind that these cigarettes are legal in both the country they are coming from and the one they are going to. That they will not explode, leak or spontaneously combust on the way. That they pose no risk of harm whatsoever. Will they get delivered?

No.

They didn’t even make it out of the state. Why?

They are prohibited. They are perfectly legal to buy in both countries but you cannot send even one pack between countries. Not even one.

Now, I could understand if we were talking a crate of cigarettes, but we are talking one pack. Actually, smugglers wouldn’t even send a crate of them by post. The cost of postage would wipe out any profit from the price differential. Sending one pack at a time would leave you with a street price way higher than even the UK shop price. So ‘smuggling’ is not an excuse.

Nobody is going to smuggle tobacco all the way from the US to the UK. Not when you can load up a small boat in Amsterdam and land it at night on a Dover beach. Hell, you could do it with sail, you don’t even need fuel.

Still, at least the US post returned them to the sender. The UK post would probably burn them, and I wouldn’t be even slightly shocked if I heard they burned them one at a time.

The UK’s Royal Mail have such heavy restrictions on what can be posted, even within the country, that it’s really no surprise we have so many private courier companies now. The private couriers are always your best bet for anything large or heavy – they are cheaper and many of them will collect from your house. Very useful way out here because the little sub-post office in Local Shop can’t handle parcels unless they fit wilthin the general post. Posting anything big means a 25-mile round trip or call a courier.

But I digress.

This is how deep the antismokers go. How petty they can be. How spiteful they have become – all with the full support of those governments who demand taxes on earniings, taxes on spending, in the case of booze, baccy and fuel, taxes on taxes. They rip money off us at every turn and yet are petty enough to enforce prohibition on the transport of a single pack of cigarettes.

‘Oh but one pack could become ten, then a hundred…’

Yeah right. At international postage prices that is really going to happen, isn’t it?

It has been true for a long time that you can visit a EU country from the UK, have a nice weekend away, load up on baccy for your return and save enough on baccy prices that your trip was essentially free. That won’t be true after a real Brexit of course. It probably won’t be true after the fake Brexit that is about to be instituted by Tory and Labour MPs with the backing of Mad Merkel, the Queen of Chaos. So we won’t even have that.

It’s been true for years that in many EU countries you’ll get a far better deal on baccy in the corner shops than in duty free. Most of the duty free only applies if you are leaving the EU.

Same for booze. Duty free whisky prices are beaten by a local Tesco or Aldi if you travel within the EU. There’s really no point even visiting duty free shops. Unless you are leaving the EU – then you get proper duty free prices.

Well, we’re leaving the EU, aren’t we? So at least we can pick up a litre of cheapo giggle water on the way home from our agonising sunburn holiday.

I’m betting that’ll be a ‘no’. I’m betting there’ll be a strict limit on what you can bring back, as if we weren’t in the EU, but the prices will be fixed as if we were. It will apply to cigarettes too.

I haven’t grown my own tobacco for a few years. I’m going to have to start doing it again.

Fortunately I have already stocked up on homebrew equipment. And I’m betting the farmer will let me have a kilo or two of barley cheap – probably free if I fix something or paint something that saves him a job.

I have also, during the course of reclaiming the garden from the weeds, found (so far) three blackberry bushes, some huge elder trees, brambles, raspberries, strawberries, so far five apple trees and seven cherry trees. Oh and let’s not forget the three well-established grapevines in the greenhouse. There’s no shortage of stuff to make booze from here.

There won’t even be a financial paper trail.

All this, you say, because you couldn’t get one pack of cigarettes? Yes. Not because of that one pack.

Because of the spite that stopped it.

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Money and smoking

If you live in the UK or any other idiot-controlled country where smoking is the main source of government hate and revenue, any saving is a good thing.

Currently it is impossible to buy a pack of 20 cigarettes for less than £8 in the UK. Rolling baccy is slightly less eyewatering but still a sting. Any chance I have to go elsewhere in the EU, I load up. It’s just common sense. Of course, after Brexit they’ll limit us again but while we are in this silly customs union we might as well make the best of it.

I have been playing around with the IQOS and the microfags for some time now and yes,  I know all about the turncoat Philip Morris and all the reasons why I should stick with real fags from real fag-sellers and I don’t care about the politics. This is about the contents of my bank account which have never been large and never will be.

A pack of real smokes is £8. A pack of microfags is £7. Plus, I have already taken £60 in Amazon vouchers from the IQOS survey thing which has more than covered the initial cost of the device plus 100 microfags. I am encouraged to persevere with this thing.

I have tried the amber (full strength) and the turquoise (girlie menthol) microfags. The amber ones are pretty good. The menthol don’t seem very mentholated, it’s there but it’s a hint not a blast. I can get the cleaning sticks from Amazon using the vouchers so they are technically free. You need those, the thing does need a cleanout once in a while or it tastes like smoking dried weasel poo.  I used the vouchers for a lot of other things too, including whisky. I have not yet tried the yellow (apparently ‘smooth’) but I just ordered some. I will report on them when I get them.

(UPDATE) I now have the yellow ones. They are indeed milder than the amber. Not bad if you prefer a smoother, less intense smoke but I’ll stick with the amber ones. They suit me best. Along with real ones of course but cost alone is going to force a switch here.)

Okay okay, you want to tell me how Philip Morris are sell-outs. Find me one vape company that does not repeat theTobacco Control mantra of ‘smoking is eeeevil. Tobacco companies are eeevil. Buy from us instead’ and maybe I’ll listen. This is a tobacco company doing business, that’s all it is. Tobacco in a different form. Trying to get through the current round of Prohibition. I don’t blame them for trying to stay in business.

Anyway, if they were really trying to appease tobacco control they should have talked to the (sensible) vapers first because appeasement never works. Those filthy Puritans hate anything that looks like fun, including IQOS. Especially IQOS because it uses real tobacco.

I like it. I don’t care who invented it or where it originated. I’ve used it more often, and for longer, than any Electrofag I’ve ever tried. And now that it’s reached a pound a pack (often more) cheaper than smoking, I’ll use it more often. I’ll still need real ones for driving because the IQOS can’t just dangle from your lips when both hands are busy but at home, it’s a useful thing.

Tell me I shouldn’t support this thing. I don’t care. Tell me I should go totally to vaping. I’ve tried quite a few Electrofags and they are a lot of fun but it just doesn’t stick. It doesn’t work for me. I don’t care. IQOS has persisted longer than any Electrofag I tried and I think that’s because it really does taste like tobacco. The one flavour Electrofag never quite got right.

The price differential is going to increase. The IQOS microfags might go down in price with more uptake, they might not. But I will state with absolute certainty that tobacco prices are going to keep climbing fast. Getting into alternatives is vital for my wallet.

Sure, every time I go to Denmark I will come back with a bag full of Vikings or Skjold. Maybe a tub of Home Roll or similar (about £30 for 280g). I will be resuming tobacco planting in the near future. I will continue to ‘cut’ tubing baccy and rolling baccy (also a lot cheaper outside the UK) with low strength pipe tobacco.

But the price saving on IQOS is now at a level that looks significant, and it works as a substitute for the real thing for me. I’ll be using it more and more in the future.

Well yes, principles are important but the long and short of it is – IQOS is cutting down my spend on heavily taxed tobacco in a way no Electrofag has yet managed. I don’t have health problems, the biggest issue for me at the moment is cost. When I first tried IQOS, which was a matter of weeks ago, the price difference per pack of 20 was pennies. It’s already £1 and it’s going to get a lot bigger. I’m sticking with it.

And if that makes you think of me as a traitor to smoking, a sell-out to The Man or some kind of hybrid smoker-vaper monstrosity, I don’t care.

I do what works for me. I do not do what other people tell me to do. No matter who is doing the telling. Never have and never will.

If that comes as a shock you really haven’t been reading this blog for very long, have you?

Tobacco, the wonder plant

As suggested by Smoking Scot in comments, here is Nisakiman’s elegant idea for a ‘smokers welcome here’ image:

It comes from an idea a long time ago which I seem to recall was started by either Frank Davis or Junican. I’d like to be more specific but I’m afraid I was very, very drunk at the time. I’d actually written two of the stories in the latest Underdog Anthology around that time and entirely forgotten about them… yeah, pretty drunk.

Tobacco is currently villified by the Righteous and their indoctinated dancing clowns of hate but the original inhabitants of America (is that the latest PC term? Please forgive me for not caring) knew a lot more about this plant. They used it for more than just a sly puff at the back of the wigwam sheds.

Modern science has been gradually catching up. Well, the discovery of vitamin B3, Niacin, aka nicotinic acid, and its derivation from nicotine happened a long time ago. There is much more though.

Tipped by Sam in email – Tobacco flowers have a yeast-killer in them.

I had seen this go by on Twitter along with another claim that tobacco may have anti-cancer properties (now there’s a twist, eh?) but no antismoker worth their bile would accept a cancer treatment that came from the tobacco plant, naturally.

This yeast-killing antibiotic (the term is usually used to mean an antibacterial in my world but we’ll let that slide) is vey interesting. It works on Candida albicans, a ‘mostly harmless’ yeast that can still cause thrush and other, not necessarily fatal but really annoying infections. I wonder if it works on other yeast/fungi? Athlete’s foot is really hard to permanently dispose of. Ringworm is an evil fucker and there is speculation (not proof) that seborrhaic dermatitis has a yeast as a causative agent. They are all hard or impossible to cure at  the moment. Should we rub some tobacco flowers on it and see?

The article talks about the ornamental versions of Nicotiana but you know they have to be so, so careful these days. Ornamental tobacco is no use for smoking but as with all these domesticated things it’s a toned down, weaker version of the wild one that has to survive with no watering or plant food or weeding or pest control.

I’m betting real tobacco flowers are way more effective than the domesticated, pampered ones. These plants are quite capable of looking after themselves. In many ways.

Tobacco has multiple medicinal properties. Who knew? Pretty much everyone before the white man’s Puritan horde decided they didn’t like it. Hating tobacco is racist now. There’s one to have fun with.

I look forward to the first tales of antismokers refusing niacin, the new anttfungals and the new anticancer drugs because they come from tobacco. You can watch them suffer and die while watching me not care.

They have no sympathy for me. Expect none in return.

HNB and free money

I just loaded a £50 Amazon voucher onto my account. And Amazon sell whisky…

I’m tempted to buy a low end one for under £14 just to cock a snook at the Spiteful Nannying Puritans and their minimum pricing, but I’ll probably get some of the good stuff instead.

Incidentally, I found a new one in Aldi. Castle and Crag, priced exactly at the minimum £14. It’s not a malt (I’d be delighted to find one at that price!) but it’s a single-grain whisky. Not a blend. A bit like Haig, but it’s not Haig. It’s actually pretty good. I’d buy it again.

Anyway, this free money, well not totally free, I had to do stuff for it, came via IQOS. Yes, I still use it, not exclusively but it’s outlasted every Electrofag I ever tried. About once a week they send a questionnaire asking how much you use it, do you use real smokes too, do you use Electrofags as well, how do you like it, what are the downsides and so on. I fill them in, and thereby accumulated points which I ignored for a while – but it seems they build up pretty fast. I remember my father collecting the points cards inside cigarette packets. This seems similar, it’s good to see the past coming full circle.

I don’t think they are allowed to let you redeem the points for their products which is a shame. I’m going to need more cleaning sticks soon and will need some more microfags to stick in the end. If I could have tried the yellow ones for free that would have been great. Alas, it is not to be.

Instead you can redeem the points for a range of vouchers. The Amazon one is likely to be the most useful for me so I went for that one. I’ve now loaded it onto the account and will browse for interesting bottle-shaped things.

I got the IQOS on a deal which was around £50 for the device and 100 microfags. I have amber (proper man strength) and turquoise (menthol) ones gradually declining here. I think I’d use it a lot more if the price of 20 microfags wasn’t the same as 20 real ones, but hey ho. At least they sell me the things. And getting this voucher technically makes the original purchase free anyway.

I did try to get a Blu electrofag but they didn’t believe I was over 18 and insisted I send a picture of my driving licence or passport to prove it. I’ve had a driving licence since 1977 and have voted in every election since 1978 but they can’t find me on the driver database or electoral roll, they said.

Well I’m not comfortable with sending my passport or driving licence over the internet so I cancelled. There will be no review of Blu here, it might be great but it seems I will never know. I see it in shops but… nah. I’ll skip that one.

It was a weird experience. I’ve bought pipe and cigarette tobacco, cigars etc. online for years. Also whisky and all kinds of Electrofags and juices and even been sent a few to review. And yet all of a sudden I have to prove my (somewhat gammony-advanced) age. I can skip one product. There are plenty more to choose from.

Still, for me, I think IQOS has a better chance of sticking than any Electrofag I’ve tried so far. I like Electrofag. It’s a great gadget. I like how I can ‘smoke’ weird flavours like absinthe and roast chicken and coffee. But… it doesn’t really feel like the real thing for me. It’s an ‘as well as’ not an ‘instead of’.

IQOS could almost become an ‘instead of’. The biggest stumbling block is the price. If the microfags were half the price of real ones I’d use it almost exclusively.

‘Almost’, because there is no way to smoke it while driving. You need a free hand to hold the device or the microfag will drop out of the end. Also, outdoors, how much smoke you produce is not an issue. I don’t see me having a beer outside on a warm summer evening without some real burning tobacco involved.

If we actually get a summer this year, I’m going to revive my pipes.

 

The In-Between

Not smoking and not Electrofag. The Gateway to Vaping, the Gadget with Baccy, exists and I have one.

I’ve looked at these before but was put off by the price. The special offer (also available in white but be quick, it’s a limited time offer) was enough to persuade me to give it a go. It arrived yesterday and I’ve used 17 of the microfags supplied already.

Most of what I was going to say has already been well covered from a vaper perspective. This is from a smoker perspective. The technical details are the same so there’s no point me repeating them.

Let’s open the box…

Lots of gadgetry and some unidentifiable weird things. I was forced to break with tradition and actually read the instructions.

(UPDATE: I hadn’t realised that some folk haven’t seen that charger plug [UK type] before. It’s a fold down thing. You have to slide up the earth pin for it to fit a UK socket. It’s not immediately obvious, it just looks like so many other plug variants we get here that need an adaptor.)

First thing I noticed was that it seemed counter-intuitive. You put the microfag in one end and the microfag filter is where you get your ‘smoke’. So it’s like a cigarette holder but in reverse. The weird things turned out to be cleaning devices. Like any other contraption, it needs regular cleaning to work at its best. Well that’s reasonable.

Which reminds me, my car must be due for its annual wash soon. Then again, the recent torrential rain did a decent job.

I charged up the case, which didn’t take very long, about 20 minutes or so, inserted the electrofagalike and waited for it to charge. Took roughly 5 minutes. The instructions say the case can charge the smoky thing at least 20 times on one charging of the case. Well, 17 microfags in and it’s still at 75% charge so I’m guessing it’ll last a while yet.

Oh I’m not kidding about the microfags…

They are Fifth Element microfags, as you’ll see later. You can’t light these to smoke them, the tobacco is packed way too tight in the end and it’s about 75% filter. They only work with the IQOS smoky thing.

So anyway, I fired one up and gave it a go. First impression, it wasn’t quite like smoking. There was a wisp of ‘smoke’ (contrast with the cumulo-nimbus generators some vapers use) but it actually did taste like smoking. The one thing vaping never got right for me was the tobacco taste. All the other flavours, even roast chicken flavour, they have spot on but they never really got tobacco flavour right.

This is actual tobacco. The taste is right. The thing is, it’s not burning. There’s no ash to build up as you type and then drop onto your keyboard. If you drop the gadget, it won’t burn into your carpet. All good so far.

The smoke is warm but not as hot as a burning cigarette and it leaves that ‘I’ve just smoked’ feeling in your mouth. I have the menthol ones and yeah, they work. Not right away. I’d say it took me about five tries to get the hang of it. I was trying to puff like a real one and that’s too fast for it. You need to take it slow.

Not too slow. This, unlike the Electrofags I’ve tried, has an end point. The vaper review I linked to puts it from a vaper, ex-smoker perspective. Vapers can take a puff or two and put it away. Smokers are stuck with a lit cigarette until it’s either done or they get fed up and put it out. Smokers are used to a defined length of time for a smoke.

So, the device’s programming to stop after 6 minutes or 14 puffs means it ends like a real one. A smoker trying an Electrofag for the first time is likely to puff away until the battery runs out – which could be hours. This thing stops when it’s done.

Another point from the other review – you have to wait a few seconds for this to heat up. Insert the microfag and press the button until the light starts flashing. When it stops flashing you are ready to go. Don’t press the button again, that will turn it off. For a smoker, these are the few seconds of digging out your lighter and lighting the thing. Vapers are used to just pressing the button and getting instant-on responses. I’d say this will work better for smokers than for vapers – and since so many vapers are now as anti-tobacco as the people who hate them too, they won’t try it anyway.

The spent microfag sometimes has a discolouration in the middle but look at the filter. The filter is still clean. There’s nothing like the darkening you get on a real smoke’s filter! Really, there’s not much of the bad stuff, if any, coming through when you use this thing.

And another thing. You ‘smoke’ at the filter end and then discard the whole microfag. No mouthpiece to worry about contamination. They are as single-use as real cigarettes. Smokers concerned about the hygiene aspects of sucking on the same mouthpiece over and over (I know there are some) will appreciate that.

The used tobacco end. It is tempting to think there is re-usable tobacco in there. No, there isn’t. The scorched part was in direct contact with the heater but it’s all been heated. There’s nothing reusable left. And there wasn’t much to begin with…

Well of course I took it apart. Would you have expected anything less? I wanted to know if I could make my own microfags. Sadly, at the moment, it’s ‘no’. I could make the baccy plug from homegrown but the paper tube isn’t just a cut-down of a tubing tube. It’s lined with some kind of foil and I doubt it’s kitchen foil. However, if this thing proves popular, there will be a market for empty tubes and the means to fill them. Bull Brand are no doubt already working on it.

Why would I consider making my own? As I said at the start, I was put off getting one of these by the startup price – and also the running price. At £7 for 20 microfags it’s really not much cheaper than smoking real ones. However, if they can keep that price constant while tobacco controllers push up real-smoke prices then the differential will become more attractive. At the moment though, it won’t attract smokers who are trying to switch for cost reasons. Which is a shame because that’s a really big chunk of the market.

It’s really only going to attract two types of smoker. Those who are trying to switch for health reasons and those who just love gadgets. Especially when the gadget is half price.

Verdict: I really like this thing. I have tried a few Electrofags and liked them but really only enjoyed them with the weird flavours. They could never replace smoking for me, they don’t have the tobacco flavour right. This IQOS is an in-between and I could well imagine smokers using this as a stepping stone to vaping. I will never believe vapers will use it to switch to smoking but the hysterical smokophobes will no doubt believe it. I might even be the one to prime their hysteria. Just to watch the antismoker vapers squeal. Some of us don’t care about money… 😉

It has not replaced real smoking for me but then it has only been two days. I have smoked far fewer real ones in those two days and this has the potential to almost replace real ones for me. Almost, mainly because I could not use it while driving long distances. You can’t set this up while driving and you can’t use it in the car because you can’t let go of it in use. If you let it dangle from your lips, the microfag slips out of the machine and the machine lands on the floor. At home, no problem. It won’t burn anything. It won’t burn anything in the car either but trying to find where it’s rolled to at 70 mph on a motorway is out of the question.

You also can’t flick a glowing butt out of the window at tailgaters. It always makes them pull back. ‘The road is mine’ and ‘the air is mine’ turns out to be the same mindset.Throwing a dead microfag at them won’t have the same effect.

There is also the final nail in the coffin  – I really like smoking. I like the blue haze and the burning smell. This device gets close but does not quite replicate it. It can, however, replace some of my daily smoking with something that carries less risk. As the cost of smoking continues to escalate the price differential could get much bigger. That would encourage me to use this more. As it is, I think it will be in use daily because it’s far closer to smoking than any Electrofag.

It won’t make me drift all the way to vaping, but it’s likely to for some. The only thing that would do that for me would be if vaping got the tobacco flavour just right. I’ll vape the weird flavours for fun but it won’t be full time unless I can vape something that tastes like the real thing.

The IQOS does taste like the real thing. A little muted maybe but the taste is right.

If the price differential between this and real cigarettes was greater I might go for it. As it is, it’ll almost certainly cut down my intake of real cigarettes although it won’t replace them entirely.

If it does, I’ll need LED-powered fake cigarette buts to throw at tailgaters.

I could probably make those.

 

(UPDATE 14th March: I’m still using it but also still smoking. It hasn’t defeated the real ones and might never do. It has, however, reduced my intake of the real ones which is only a marginal cost saving at the moment. I don’t feel any different yet, maybe I’m too damn healthy for it to show a difference. I’ll see if it does anything healthy to me in a week or so.)

Knackered, but news of a new type of Electrofag

It pissed down all day yesterday. Since the concrete area outside slopes towards the house, the water from that and all the roof drains into a trough outside the door and combined with the melting snow, there is now an inch of water in the utility room. I have given up trying to mop it. I’ll get the wet vac out today.

It’s not the first time but it’s the worst one so far. Fortunately the washing machine and dryer are already up on blocks after last time. The drain all this water goes into isn’t blocked, it all goes away quickly once the rain stops, it’s just that the one little drain can’t cope. I’m going to do some redirecting on those drainpipes if I ever see good weather. Fixing the rest is the landlord’s problem.

CreateSpace has been down so I still don’t have final figures for sales for last quarter. They aren’t likely to be much but I have to keep this accurate. The taxman will insist.

It has been a crap week or so. All the wood store got damp because the easterly wind blew right into the barn where it’s stored so it took a lot of snow and now rain. Local Shop was out of logs, they only had coal. Okay. My burner has a grate so it can deal with coal.

Smokeless coal is smokeless because you can’t light the damn stuff. Why do I need smokeless anyway? There’s nobody around to moan about it. It’s all that was left in the shop and now I know why. Today I’ll start by lighting a charcoal bed for it. I have a bag of charcoal for the Barbecue that Never Happened last year.

I need to cut a channel in concrete (or persuade the landlord to do it) to let the excess water wander off into the garden. Any tips?

Bah. I am shattered and seriously pissed off.

But there is one bright thing. I have invested in a new type of Electrofag. One that uses real tobacco. It should arrive in a couple of days.

I was put off by the expense of heat-not-burn, I admit. It’s no cheaper than buying real ones but hey, they want to sell me the machine and 100 ‘heets’ (tobacco tubes) for under £50, I’ll risk it. 100 is equivalent to five packs of cigarettes which in the UK is tapping hard on the door of £40 anyway for the lowest priced ones. And it’s a gadget. A new gadget. There will be a review.

I will also investigate whether it’s currently possible to make your own refills. If not, it soon will be. Probably far easier than making your own e-juice too.

Vaping is fun. I like to ‘smoke’ a brandy, then a roast chicken, then apple pie and then a coffee and an absinthe. Public Health should be promoting this because the calorie count for that whole meal is zero. Unfortunately they have proved themselves to be clinically insane so they never will.

Still, vaping has not taken me away from smoking. It’s just not the same. It’s fun but something is missing. Maybe HnB is that missing link. We shall see.

Today the sun is out. Maybe, finally, that damn snow will finish melting and we can get back to something approaching normality here..