I am a cigarette smoker from NJ. With rising gasoline prices in the US and NJ recently rasing the sales tax by 1%, I realize smoking is costing me an arm and a leg as well as a lung.

Should I just quit buying cigarettes altogether? New Jersey has good soil. I might be able to talk my landlord into growing tobacco in our backyard. Or the attic if he says no. I see no other options. Please help.

-Ledif


Wow, Ledif, what a well-written and informative question. I actually learned a few things from your question - first that the NJ sales tax is going up, and apparently it's doing so by a "rasing" process about which NJ is keeping surprisingly tight-lipped. Second, I learned that NJ has good soil. Although I knew it was considered the garden state, I had no idea that anything grew in New Jersey except the crime rate. (zing!) Third, I learned that you have a landlord. I had no idea. Finally, I see that the name Ledif is still alive and kicking, after its recent drop-off and the rise in names such as "Kevin" and "Beatrice" I'll have to inform my cousin Ledif and his four fine children, Ledif Jr., Lediffa, Mary-Ledif, and Pookis.

But your question is a good one. Cigarettes are expensive and it is now almost considered a long-term investment to be a smoker. Not to mention the increased trouble in finding locations to smoke, as bars have banned it, churches have banned it, and even Marlboro is thinking of banning it in what some consider the 'strangest advertising campaign of all time'. To be a smoker now requires dedication and, as the Jewish would intone, chutzpah - oy! I must declare, as I'm ethically bound, that I am in no way a proponent of smoking, which is a self-destructive habit that will ultimately result in health problems, financial woes, and an ability to look 'pretty cool' when you do it while leaning against a building. However, there are many people out there who are in need of some second-hand smoke thrown their way (think politicians). So while my answers suggest that smoking is okay, let it hereby be known that I only condone it as a way to harm others.

First, it's the name brand (Marlboro, Taryton 100's, Tuberculostix) that increases the price. One simple remedy on the wallet is to make your own homemade cigarettes. First, get some rolling papers. This may seem pricey to the savvy shopper, so regular college-ruled lined paper should work. Tobacco is quite pricey as well, so I would suggest using pencil shavings (as you only need to purchase a pencil and a tiny sharpener, which retail for less than $2). Grind the pencil down to a nub, and wrap the product in your paper (preferably before you scribble calculus notes on it). Now I know what you're thinking, as I usually do. "Fats, I smoke cigarettes because of the nicotine - your pencil shaving cigarettes won't do anything for me." You're right. Buy a packet of any nicotine-gum and mush a few pieces in with your pencil shavings. If the nicotine-gum is too expensive, you can substitute some Big League Chew, or my personal favorite brand of chewing gum, Flavor'd Fun Squares. Roll up tightly, adhere with rubber cement, light that sucker up, and enjoy a cheaper means to your ultimate death.

The thought of making your own cigarettes in your attic may not appeal to you, as it is *technically* work. To combat this, there is another method to get free tobacco. Go to a tobacco farm (helpful tip: Virginia may be known for its southern hospitality, but wear bullet-proof clothing just in case). Find some tobacco plants. Instead of cutting them, which is time-consuming, simply set the entire garden ablaze and stand there, soaking in the bounteous (and perhaps toxic) fumes. It's all the nicotine you'll need, without the aggravating nuisance of lifting your hand to your mouth.

Finally, a good suggestion for a cheap fix for your crippling habit is to look into our past. We can learn a few things from our Native American forbears (and no, I don't mean how to erect a casino). Our Indian friends were the pioneers of many things - growing and harvesting tobacco, scalping, and consistently having a losing record despite having a talented young batch of all-star players. Native Americans are always more than willing to share their expertise in the cultivation of this crop, and all you really need to do is threaten to take away everything they own. With only this nudge, they will be thrilled to share with you not only their agricultural secrets, but likely any of their already-prepared cigarettes, their stashes of chewing tobacco, and possibly their homes. They are a giving people, especially when prompted by small arms fire. We can certainly learn a thing or two from their time-honored knowledge and their complete lack of a sense of ownership.

I hope, as I tend to, that I've provided invaluable insight and suggestions. That's another one in the books, although the last page of this book definitely says "Write me for more sage-like advice, and seriously knock it off with the death threats. I'm just trying to help."