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Why do people make a lucky cigarette in their packs of cigarettes?
May 31, 2006 3:11 AM   Subscribe

How did the ritual of inverting a single cigarette in a fresh pack of cigarettes start? Was there some cultural reason, or a simple good luck charm?
posted by nibaq to Grab Bag (39 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Hmmm...interesting that this is an international custom, I would have guessed it was a local thing when I was growing up in Australia. The best link I could find is this for describing the "lucky", but it is silent on where is originated. The Lucky Strike brand makes it harder to Google.
I will toss in that in my day, the the lucky was determined by pulling up the glued flap in the inside top of a flip top hard pack, which then had an alpha numeric code in the form (A/B/C1-9) determining the lucky's position. Presumably it was some printer's code.
I just went and checked my wife's smokes and there was no code, so perhaps they no longer print it, or perhaps only on some brands.
My guess on why a lucky? If you light up your 2nd last smoke and someone tries to bum one, you can say, sorry mate, only have my lucky left.
posted by bystander at 4:10 AM on May 31, 2006


Here are some notes on how this ritual varies and on the detailed way to perform it. No explanation as to why. Maybe it arose as a visual cue to remind the smoker to get some more. A bit like Rizla's "5 Leaves Left" marker? Likewise the tradition puts anybody to whom you might otherwise offer you last cigarette off from casually taking it.
posted by rongorongo at 4:12 AM on May 31, 2006


I've heard that soldiers would smoke unfiltered cigarettes backwards so that the label identifying the cigarette (and thus, the smoker's country of origin) would burn off first in case they came across the enemy. Perhaps it stems from that? I don't know, just a thought.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:31 AM on May 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'll toss in that more than once I've looked in the pack of cigarettes thinking I was completely out only to see my lucky "hiding" in the corner (harder to see since it's white and the filter is brown). I sure felt lucky to not be completely out of smokes.
posted by pierow at 4:34 AM on May 31, 2006


I've always assumed it was so one had an excuse not to give up the last cigarette in the pack to someone asking to bum a smoke. (As in, "Sorry dude, I can't give you my lucky.")
posted by j-dawg at 5:05 AM on May 31, 2006


I'll toss in that more than once I've looked in the pack of cigarettes thinking I was completely out only to see my lucky "hiding" in the corner (harder to see since it's white and the filter is brown).

I second this, it's happened to me more than once. I can't remember why I started doing the 'lucky cigarette' myself, apart from the fact that a few of my friends did it, but flicking the bottom of a newly opened pack and inverting one of the cigarettes that sticks up has a nice ritualistic aspect, which is probably a big part of why I continue to do it.

It's certainly an unlucky cigarette for anyone who takes it from an offered pack and then lights the filter.
posted by drill_here_fore_seismics at 5:15 AM on May 31, 2006


I'm an obsessive lucky flipper. How do you guys choose your lucky?
posted by spaghetti at 5:25 AM on May 31, 2006


I never subscribed to this, but at the quaint, suburban, high school I attended, guys would give their "lucky" to the girl they wanted to, ahem, get lucky with. However, this is probably just a local variation on a pre-existing theme (anyone else heard of it?).
posted by xanthippe at 5:32 AM on May 31, 2006


How do you guys choose your lucky?

I flick the bottom of the pack/box and the cigarette that sticks up the most becomes the 'lucky cigarette'.
posted by drill_here_fore_seismics at 5:34 AM on May 31, 2006


I don't smoke but I found an interesting thread in the snopes forums.

The user "ranran yousei" speculates that it is "more of a tradition, rather than for luck. I suppose back in my "soft pack" days it was a challenge, since the likelihood of accidently grabbing that one, and lighting the wrong end is greater. Now it's just a holdover, with no real meaning."

Not sure where that came from though. Some other people also added that you need to make a wish before you smoke it. And others drew a connection to "getting lucky" after its been smoked.

Link
posted by coolin86 at 5:52 AM on May 31, 2006


I think we used to assign each cigarette a letter, starting at the back left, and then flip the one whose letter corresponded to the first name of the boy we liked. I can't remember what happened if we liked a guy whose name started with one of the later letters of the alphabet.....
posted by Amizu at 5:56 AM on May 31, 2006


One urban myth is that random packs of Lucky Strikes (prior to the Marijuana Tax Act) would occasionally have a joint in them which was identified by an alternate coloured filter. This myth is the most common that I have heard and is likely where the concept originated.
posted by longbaugh at 6:13 AM on May 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


I don't recall having seen this. In my experience, it was often considered unlucky to accept someone's last cigarette from a pack, if you asked for one. But in my youth, hard packs were uncommon.
posted by Goofyy at 6:17 AM on May 31, 2006


When I was in high school (in Ontario), we called it the "wish smoke." We flipped the first smoke we touched in the pack, and smoked it last, making a wish when smoking it. I'm not sure if this was common to the area or if it was a variation on the lucky smoke theme that my particular group of friends came up with.
posted by carmen at 6:40 AM on May 31, 2006


Wow. This ex-smoker has never heard of this.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 6:48 AM on May 31, 2006


"I flick the bottom of the pack/box"
"we used to assign each cigarette a letter"

You people scare me. There's only one lucky in every pack: dead center, front row. Who taught you this stuff?

"This myth is the most common that I have heard"

Interesting. I've never heard that. Can't quite see how it related to the act of flipping a cigarette over, though.

"others drew a connection to 'getting lucky'"

This thread is the first place I've ever even heard of a connection being drawn. I'm guessing it's regional.

"Sorry dude, I can't give you my lucky."

This is why you flip a lucky. I've never met a smoker -- not even a lowly, pack-draining "party smoker" -- who would take a lucky.
posted by majick at 6:57 AM on May 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


I flick the bottom of the pack/box and the cigarette that sticks up the most becomes the 'lucky cigarette'.
posted by drill_here_fore_seismics

I'm the same. And I didn't use to do it, until my girlfriend started hijacking my packs and doing it for me. Now I just do it myself. She picked it up from a friend, but neither quite know why they insist on doing it. And I do actually tell people that it prevents lung cancer (beats saying 'I don't know').
posted by slimepuppy at 7:06 AM on May 31, 2006


Majick - it comes from the fact that an upside down cigarette is white against a sea of brown filters, much as a joint with a non-standard filter would stand out. The myth of joints appearing in a pack of luckies is well known enough to be listed on Wikipedia and several other sites.

As to which should be the lucky - it's the 2nd from the right in the front row you philistines.
posted by longbaugh at 7:16 AM on May 31, 2006


When I was in high school (in Ontario), we called it the "wish smoke." We flipped the first smoke we touched in the pack, and smoked it last, making a wish when smoking it. I'm not sure if this was common to the area or if it was a variation on the lucky smoke theme that my particular group of friends came up with.

Exact same thing here, high school in Buffalo, NY. We still called it the lucky, though.
posted by Kellydamnit at 7:45 AM on May 31, 2006


Echoing Kellydamnit, in the NYC area. And I always flipped the middle one in the center row.
posted by AlisonM at 8:29 AM on May 31, 2006


it's fascinating that the only point of contention is which cig is the lucky one. in all my years of smoking, everyone had a 'lucky', and I never once experienced a discussion about why.

front row, fourth from the left, you gyrating dungbeetles.
posted by markovitch at 8:53 AM on May 31, 2006


Interesting one, Longbaugh (One urban myth...). I'd never heard that before but I can imagine my long ago 16 year old self being taken away on huge flights of fancy by that concept. Of course: Marijuana Tax Act - 1937. Lucky Strikes with filters - middle 1960's, but when have obvious factual inaccuracies stopped a good myth? Also, it doesn't explain why you have just ONE lucky cigarette. I'd think it would make more contextual sense to flip them all over.

Me, I suspect the lucky smoke is just a way to differentiate one single cigarette out of the many identicals, no more no less. Being identifiable enough to ensure that it is the last smoke smoked makes it the lucky cigarette.
posted by dirtdirt at 9:11 AM on May 31, 2006


Ritual passed to me from my grandfather. I like rituals, especially ones without some obvious utility. It has always served in good stead as no self-respecting mooch would take the lucky and any who would are undeserving.

As for how to pick 'em, well, they self-identify through whatever structure you impose on the system. I used to pick tallest in the deck after opening the foil. Now that I carry in a separate case, it's the second to last in the pack as I transfer to the case.
posted by Fezboy! at 9:19 AM on May 31, 2006


We need more on dates. When I smoked and hung out with a lot of smokers in the 1970s I never heard of this ritual. Those of you who are familiar with it, when did you first run into it?
posted by beagle at 9:59 AM on May 31, 2006


This question brings me back to the days I just started smoking in college (I've cut way way back since then), and it's odd I never wondered til now. I just accepted it as part of the whole aura of smoking.

You guys must be smoking something other than cigs though, 'cause it's second from the left.
posted by like_neon at 10:04 AM on May 31, 2006


How do you guys choose your lucky?

Exactly as bystander describes, through looking at the printed number under one of the top flaps on the inside of the packet, then counting from the front left. I think I mainly smoked Peter Stuyvesants and Winfields at the time (in Australia) - perhaps that particular print mark is only used by certain brands, the US Marlboros I've got at the moment don't have it.

I don't know anyone over 16 who does this though (except, maybe, you guys?) - I stopped when I started smoking rollies and never picked it back up again when I (finished uni and stopped being poor) went back to tailor-mades. I guess I always thought it was just school palaver.
posted by goo at 11:11 AM on May 31, 2006


Middle front. majick for Best Answer.
posted by sachinag at 11:17 AM on May 31, 2006


I used to do this. Mostly for the 'I can't give you my lucky' factor. I think it all stopped when I moved to an area where I'd get asked for a smoke 5 times just going to/from lunch/work.

Now no one but those I know gets a smoke, ever. The usefulness of the lucky has been usurped by the power of a determined 'no'.
posted by mnology at 12:25 PM on May 31, 2006


Wow I found this thread really funny - I have never heard of this habit/custom, despite the fact I used to smoke a bit, and many of my friends do. Is it just common in the US/Australia? (I'm from England.) Or perhaps it's something that originated years ago and I'm too young to know about it (I'm 20.)

I'm actually quite glad I don't smoke anymore because I bet I would pick this up as one of my many 'habits'!!
posted by schmoo at 12:31 PM on May 31, 2006


As a twentysomething smoker from the US, who knows a bunch of other twentysomething smokers, I've never heard of this "lucky" thing.

Weirdoes.
posted by neckro23 at 1:06 PM on May 31, 2006


I'm a smoker from the US, most smokers i've know have done this for as long as i can remember and the method for finding the lucky has always varied from person to person. Personally I've never been a fan but drill_here_fore_seismics's method has a certain ritualistic appeal that has me tempted to start.
posted by The Radish at 3:12 PM on May 31, 2006


argh... fat-fingered the link: drill_here_fore_seismics's
posted by The Radish at 3:13 PM on May 31, 2006


Plenty of people that I went to school with used to do this, and for no particular reason – it used to drive me up the wall because it just seemed, well, a bit daft. (schmoo, you might be right about being too young; I'm from the UK and 28, and it was fairly common a few years ago.)

I never subscribed to this, but at the quaint, suburban, high school I attended, guys would give their "lucky" to the girl they wanted to, ahem, get lucky with. However, this is probably just a local variation on a pre-existing theme (anyone else heard of it?).

Do you love someone enough to give them your last Rolo? [scroll down a bit]
posted by Len at 3:43 PM on May 31, 2006


Wow. I don't smoke, but unless my friends that do are doing it much after they open a pack, I've never seen this. These smokers are 16-20 or so, in Oregon.
posted by devilsbrigade at 3:48 PM on May 31, 2006


I've never heard of any specific process to pick a lucky cigarette. You just pick one and flip it, and then it's bad luck to smoke it before you've finished off the rest of the pack.
posted by Orrorin at 7:47 PM on May 31, 2006


The Radish - Just to clarify my method, the one that sticks up highest is the one you touch first (to flip it), which is a part of what makes it the lucky cigarette.

I can't belive people have a set position for their lucky - you should let fate decide! FATE!
posted by drill_here_fore_seismics at 1:34 AM on June 1, 2006


belive believe

(The importance of this issue has obviously affected my ability to spell)
posted by drill_here_fore_seismics at 4:19 AM on June 1, 2006


Data point: I first started smoking almost 25 years ago, and have been a smoker while visiting nearly 40 countries. I have never seen or heard of this before.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:34 AM on June 2, 2006


We did it in high school, choosing a random cigarette out of the pack (I'd never heard of the variations where you use a system to determine which one). You were supposed to smoke that cigarette last. There was a sexual component, similar to xanthippe's comment -- I think it was that if somebody handed you the pack so you could take one, taking the lucky meant you had to perform a favor.

To add a historical data point to devilsbrigade's comment: we were all 16-18 year olds in Oregon, too, but it was about 10 years ago.
posted by liet at 11:31 AM on June 6, 2006


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