Ok so now I am fully grown and cigarette smoking didn’t stunt my growth. If anything when I quit for good a number of years ago the major recipient of this exercise in self-control – in addition to the several hundred of pounds Sterling yearly added to the positive balance in my bank account – was my waistline. It continues to be a daily battle that is often won by the glorious flavours of a glass of wine or the cunning simplicity of a toffee eclair.
For all that is clearly wrong with smoking, there was a time, for me living in Paris in 1980 smoking soft pack Disque Bleu or, at the invitation of my German-Canadian pal Ed, who went to the same Uni as Barack Obama – although we didn’t know that at the time – a Rodt Handle, when it was kinda cool. Of course, in a European city, pavement cafe, ceramic Anis ashtray, bentwood chair and circular zinc topped table kind of way.
A white filter tipped Marlborough light shipped over from the US actually tasted of toasted tobacco, an Italian Muratti with its charcoal filter or a maize coloured non-filtered Gitanes, a real Turkish flavored Camel or a Sweet Afton weren’t purveyors of obvious peril – well, of course, they were but we were either too stupid or too vain to take any real notice.
To accompany the ritual of a cigarette you had to have a cool lighter. If you had a curious triple barreled name and parents who sold art in New York you may well have had something by in 18 carat by DuPont or Cartier, but most of us who were currently living on planet Earth would have a Zippo.
This gorgeously tactile little piece of weighty metal with a simple wheel than with a deft flick spun caused a hail of sparks to ignite the liquid gas that you had poured into the cotton wadding in side it casing. We developed cooler ways to light you Zippo by flicking the lid and rolling the wheel on a taught jean-clad thigh emerging above the cafe’s table like bearing an Olympic torch as opposed to a lit Zippo.
George G. Blaisdell founded Zippo Manufacturing Company in 1932 with the first Zippo lighter, fueled by butane, being produced in early 1933 – to date the basic mechanism has remained unchanged.
These brass lighters became very popular with the US military and during the Second World War when production was dedicated to supplying the military – although no official order was placed – Zippos appeared with authorised badges, crests and division insignia.
Known for their “windproof” properties, Zippos are a favourite with harsh weather explorers and sales have broadened as a decline in smoking affected the core market.
Now produced in Bradford (Pennsylvania, USA) and Niagara Falls (Ontario, Canada) , on 5th June 2012, Zippos 80th Anniversary, the company produced its 500-millionth unit and still going.
All Zippo windproof lighters carry an unlimited lifetime guarantee and all parts of the lighter are replaceable.
I still have mine, it is always loaded with butane and a fresh flint – you never know when you may need to light ……….a welding torch!