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Monday, 18 October 2010

Retread - the Desperate Cigarette

ciggy butt

This entry eloquently demonstrates why you really shouldn't take up smoking.

Take one cigarette paper, one filter (if you have one) and one ashtray. Remove a butt from the ashtray, hold it above the paper and roll it between your thumb and forefinger so that any remaining tobacco falls on to the paper. Remove another butt from the ashtray and repeat until the paper is covered with tobacco. Place the filter at the end of the paper, roll the paper, light the cigarette, inhale and instantly regret it.


At some point many tobacco smokers will have experienced the 'retread', a second-hand cigarette that is usually rolled in the days immediately preceding pay-day or giro-day, and that carries with it the shame, desperation and lack of forward-planning that characterises the psychology of those of us addicted to tobacco. These characteristics manifest themselves as follows:

Lack of Forward Planning

A retread is rolled when a smoker has run out of tobacco and has also run out of money, preventing the purchase of any more. The smoker generally doesn't notice the imminent tragedy until it's too late. At no point during the previous week or so does the smoker think 'Oh, tobacco's a bit short, best stock up while I've still got some cash'; it's not until the hand reaches to the bottom of the packet to find only crumbs that the severity of the situation becomes apparent. The lack of forward planning is inherent in any smoker - we all know that in the long term smoking isn't going to do us any favours but we carry on regardless.


A retread is constructed by scouring ashtrays and attempting to amass enough tobacco from the butts contained therein to cobble together a new cigarette. A retread is never pleasant and a rational person would rarely smoke one out of choice, but desperation can do terrible things to rationality. Being a combination of ash and dry tobacco, a retread burns badly, hurts the throat and, during construction, makes a terrible mess under the fingernails. The smoker can only hope that they can find a nail brush and that there are some filters left.

And some papers.


The natural successor to such an act of desperation is shame. Rummaging around ashtrays in search of a final drag lacks dignity. Rummaging around the ashtrays of other people is even worse (though that is generally localised to the early hours of parties). As the tobacco comes from the end of smoked cigarettes it has already been coated with tar and nicotine, making the retread a nasty affair and leading to a horrendous cough the following morning, reminding the smoker of the depths to which they have sunk. A retread smoker is rarely a proud smoker.

Oh No Not Again

A seriously bad planner might find themselves retreading two-three days before getting paid. This can lead to retreads of retreads and even retreads of retreaded retreads, which are as ghastly as they sound. It's a humbling moment when you find yourself eyeing up the ashtrays, knowing that the same thing happened last month and will no doubt happen next month, re-treading the retread path.


  1. Or you could just give up smoking! ;-)

  2. Wash your mouth out with soap and water, SadButMadLad. This is a blog that is the founder of first hand smoke as we know it.

    Shame on you for the suggestion.

  3. I knew there would be some self- righteous knobhead who couldn't help himself.

    Yeah, there have been times I've had to suffer the shame of retreads. Worst ever experience was a really cheap yet massive joke cigar thing someone brought me back from Spain and which had lain drying in a cupboards for years. Ever seen tobacco spark and spit when you light it? Nasty, but got me through that week.

    Must say the best hand rolling baccy around at the mo is Domingo Vanilla flavour (made in Belgium and brought over at £3 per 50g by friends from abroad. Fuck giving the haters here my tax money!). Lovely!!!

  4. I tend to stock up a little when at home. The problem comes when joining a new ship. Because of the combination of flying abroad and dirt cheap cigs onboard I don't take a lot of cigs/tobacco with me.

    Then you get there and the conversation with the master is usually along the lines of:

    Me: "Can I get some cigs from the bonds?"

    Cpt: "Sure, as soon as we leave, it's customs sealed at the moment."

    Me: "And how long do we expect to be here?"

    Cpt: "Ooh, 2 or 3 weeks, hard to tell with the dockworkers on strike."

    Me: "Noooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!

    Repeats about every other time I sign on. Yet I never seem to learn.

  5. Craig.
    As an ex seafarer myself I can share your pain. When you join a ship on an obscure oil fuel jetty in the middle of nowhere the last thing you want to hear is "The bond is closed".

    The bribes I've had to pay to non smokers who have been able to get into town and purchase a few packets of the weed would pay of the government deficit for a generation.


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