Perhaps no writer waxed as eloquent about meditative smoking as the polemical novelist Ayn Rand. In her mammoth work Atlas Shrugged, she wrote, "I like to think of fire held in a man's hand. Fire, a dangerous force, tamed at his fingertips. I often wonder about the hours when a man sits alone, watching the smoke of a cigarette, thinking. I wonder what great things have come from such hours. When a man thinks, there is a spot of fire alive in his mind and it is proper that he should have the burning point of a cigarette as his one expression."
Rand may have altered her views on smoking a bit after her surgery for lung cancer, but the link between creativity and smoking didn't end or begin with her. Ever since Sir Walter Raleigh brought tobacco into the British royal court, a long line of artists and thinkers have turned to smoking for creative inspiration. And, until the fussy, fretting, nose-wrinkling, hand-fanning scolds started cracking down this decade, the fragrance of tobacco followed creative types wherever they went, from Berlin to Brooklyn.
And so it seems fitting that the producers of Camel cigarettes have started slipping "canvas packs" blank hard packs into their "buy 2, get 1 free" promotional packages. The promotion, which started in July 2006, can be found at local stores. For many, the fun of designing your own pack will be enough. But if you have a competitive streak, Camel asks consumers to draw on their own pack of cigarettes and send them in to R.J. Reynolds. The cigarette manufacturer posts smokers' designs on its Web site, and the designs that are picked get put into production. About a dozen of the smoker-designed packs have hit retailers since the promotion began. All you have to do to enter the contest is provide proof of age, wait to get on R.J. Reynolds' mailing list, get the rules of the contest, design your pack, send it in to the company and wait. Yeah, it's a lot of work, but remember: Your old man would walk a mile for a Camel.Michael Jackman is a Metro Times copy editor and writer. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.