Tag Archives: smoking

Names of the parts of a cigar, cigarette, pipe and matchbook

Parts of a Cigar, Cigarette, Pipe and Matchbook

Theatre and films seem to have an awful lot of tobacco smoking in it, so it can be useful to the props person to be able to identify the parts and anatomy of common smoking devices. Cigars, cigarettes and pipes have endless variations of shapes and styles and have evolved much throughout history, but they do have parts that have remained somewhat consistent over time.

Names of the parts of a cigar, cigarette, pipe and matchbook

Cigar

  • foot – the end meant to be lit.
  • cigar band – a paper or foil loop that identifies the type and/or brand of cigar. The hobby of collecting cigar bands is known as vitolophily; you can find over 1,000 examples of old cigar bands at the “Up-in-Smoke” Cigar Band Museum.
  • wrapper – a spirally-rolled leaf of tobacco.
  • head – the end closest to the cigar band that goes in the smoker’s mouth.
  • tuck – where the wrapper is folded in to keep itself from unraveling.
  • tobacco – dried and fermented bunches of leaves.

Cigarette

  • filter – a cellulose tube not filled with tobacco meant to lower the amount of tar and other unwanted particles from entering the lungs. Invented in the mid-1920s. By the 1960s, the majority of cigarettes had filters, though even today you can still buy unfiltered ones.
  • foot – the end that goes in your mouth. On a fully-smoked cigarette, this is known as the butt.
  • band – similar to a cigar band but usually printed right on the cigarette paper. Can have the logo or just a simple design.
  • paper – a combustible tube-shaped wrapper to hold the tobacco.
  • tobacco – shredded tobacco leaves, tobacco by-products, and other additives.

Pipe

  • bit or mouthpiece – where one puts his or her mouth.
  • stem – the part that joins the shank with the bit or mouthpiece.
  • saddle – a flattened part for easier gripping.
  • shank – where the mortise on the bowl connects with the tenon on the stem.
  • shape – the style of curve and other attributes. Here is a great chart of various pipe shapes.
  • bowl – part used to hold the tobacco. The interior hollow area is known as the chamber. Unsmoked tobacco in the bottom of the bowl after smoking is called dottle.
  • lunt – another name for pipe smoke.

Matchbook

  • cover – folded paper or cardboard piece to hold the matches. Frequently contains advertising or logos on the outside. The abrasive striking surface, or friction strip, used to light the matches is on the back cover. The hobby of collecting matchbook covers is known as phillumeny.
  • saddle – the area between the front and back of the cover.
  • head – the part of the match that is lit.
  • matchstick – the stem of a match.
  • front flap – the bit of the cover tucked inside to hold the matches.
  • staple – used to secure the matchsticks between the cover and the front flap.
  • score – the crease to form the front flap.

My Links Friday

Mary Robinette Kowal tells us we almost didn’t have the Muppets, and lays out four ways the world of puppets would be different if not for Jim Henson.

Saul Griffith brings us a curriculum of toys. He categorizes the different ways a child can learn to make things and to interact with the physical world, then suggests toys and games which will help grow the skills in each of those categories. Looks like fun for adults, too!

The New York Times has a summary of the science, health and legal implications of e-cigarettes since their introduction. Giving them to an actor for use on stage of course raises additional concerns and considerations than when a private individual who already smokes uses them, but this article does a good job of laying out all the different governmental and scientific forces jockeying for a say in the future of e-cigarette use. If nothing else, this article should show you that the legality of using e-cigarettes on stage will probably remain ambiguous and evolving over the next several years.

Finally, enjoy this video of a wooden automaton who can pick up an arrow, draw it in a bow and fire it at a target:

Top Prop News of 2010

With the end of 2010 fast approaching, I thought I would take a look back on some of the major news stories which have affected the world of props. The world of props is not really a fast-changing industry, so changes in the world are slow to impact all of us working in props. Still, a few stories this year have enough of an impact to be worth mentioning here.

SPAM website relaunches – The Society of Properties Artisan Managers is the largest organization of props masters and directors in the United States, with members from most of the major regional and educational theatres and operas. In the past, information about them or how to contact them seemed shrouded in mystery (though not on purpose). That changed in March with the launching of a new website, www.propmasters.org, which is more geared to props people seeking information on them and how they can get involved.

StageBitz software enters beta testing – This story just squeezed into this past year, and I don’t have much to report on it. StageBitz is a new (and possibly the first) online tool for professional props management. We’ve seen several minor attempts at software aimed toward the props master, though many of us end up adapting more general software, such as Microsoft Office, FileMaker Pro, or Google Docs for our needs. I’ll be beta-testing StageBitz through next March, and letting you all know how it is.

E-cigarettes – E-cigarettes continue to be in the news. As one of the few viable alternatives for on-stage cigarettes in many venues, prop masters and directors should be interested in the current legal state of using them. This past year, I summarized their current situation, which began with a July, 2009, report by the FDA on the potential health hazards of e-cigarettes. They were attempting to classify them as a drug-delivery device, which would allow them to enact a ban and prevent their importation, as opposed to a tobacco product, which would be regulated similarly to regular cigarettes (and not banned). Last January, the FDA attempted to block the shipment of e-cigarettes into the US, but a federal judge ruled against it. In September, they again attempted to classify e-cigarettes as a drug-delivery device rather than a tobacco product; a drug-delivery device, such as nicotine patches or gum, needs to be “proven safe and effective”, and so e-cigarettes can be effectively banned unless they underwent rigorous (and costly) testing to prove their efficacy as a stop-smoking aid. As a tobacco product, they are subject to far less regulation (a major problem is that many e-cigarette manufacturers insist on marketing their products as “safe alternatives to smoking” and helpful in quitting cigarettes, yet argue in court that they are merely recreational tobacco products. They’re trying to have it both ways). The court stopped the FDA from banning e-cigarettes. Finally, this past December, an appellate court withheld this ruling, and as of the end of this year, e-cigarettes remain legal in the US and most likely will be regulated as a tobacco product.
What’s most frustrating in all of this is that, as a prop, we are only interested in the zero-nicotine versions of e-cigarettes. In other words, we don’t need either a drug-delivery device or a tobacco product; what we want is something more akin to a mini–theatrical fogger.

Donmar Warehouse actor shot in face – David Birrell, an actor in a West End production of Sondheim’s Passion, was injured in his eye when a blank-firing replica flintlock rifle misfired, and taken to the hospital. He nearly lost his eye. This incident reinforced to prop masters and directors everywhere that when it comes to blank-firing weapons onstage, you can never be too safe.

Original Stargate auctioned off – Now, props from television and movies are constantly being auctioned off, so I’ll admit this one is included in the list due to my own personal excitement. Still, it does have some more significance than your average prop auction. Stargate SG-1 was the longest-running American sci-fi series, and when it ended, they began auctioning off most of the props and scenery. This past September, the actual Stargate used on location (not the one used on set) came up for sale. It had been created for the pilot episode and was used throughout the entire ten-year run of the show.

Reoccurring prop newspaper – This wasn’t so much a 2010 “event” as it was a thrilling series of investigative journalism that broke this past June. Starting with a compilation of images from TV and film that showed characters reading the same newspaper, the following day, an article in Slashfilm expanded on this and went viral. A few days later, Slate Magazine had tracked down not only the source—the Earl Hays Press in California—but also the reason: getting clearance to use real newspapers takes time and money.

My list ends here. I’ve covered all of these stories on either this blog or on my Twitter, so if you follow each, you’ll always be up-to-date on news that affects you as a props person. I’m sure many other stories happened in 2010 which are relevant to the props practitioner, so I leave it up to you: what are your favorite events, tools, materials or anecdotes that came out of the past year?

Crack

Ever since the CIA invented crack and introduced it to America in the 1980s, this drug has found its way into a number of plays. Thus it is up to the prop master to figure out how to simulate its use on stage, since smoking real crack is often beyond the budget of most productions.

The most important step is first to research what crack looks like. With the internet, it should not be too hard to find images of the actual drug; relying on pictures from film is less reliable because these are already an interpreted facsimile of the original. If you can get your hands on some actual crack, take some pictures of it before you disappear into a years-long struggle with addiction.

In the film Half Nelson, actor Ryan Gosling smokes crack on-screen. Jeremy Balon, the prop master, explains how they achieved the effect:

What ended up working was an off-white coffee mug that I broke up into about a million little pieces, then dyed in coffee. During the scenes I would use a piece of the broken porcelain that most resembled a ‘rock’ and then set a small ball of tobacco behind it, so that when lit, a very small amount of smoke would come out.

(from the Daily Beast, Oct 31, 2010)

If your theatre prohibits tobacco, you can substitute a small amount of material from an herbal cigarette. If even that is prohibited, you will need to experiment with other materials which will give off a small amount of smoke over a prolonged period of time.

The Prop People Forum has some more helpful suggestions. One user found some white gravel in a parking lot which worked perfectly. In that case, the director did not want to see the crack actually smoking.

Other suggestions which were offered but not tested out included clear rock candy or breaking chalk or sugar cubes into irregular shapes.

E-Cigarettes

So your play needs cigarettes. Aaaah.

In most venues by now, real cigarette smoking is viewed as the next plague. The fear is that lighting a single cigarette for a few seconds in a large, well-ventilated theater, is worse than the constant outpouring of pollution from 250 million cars, 600 coal power plants, and every other industrial process. But I digress.

Even herbal cigarettes are becoming banned in many places; this is due to health reasons, moral hesitance, or simply for the fire hazard. Even if they are permitted, many people dislike them for their “marijuana-y” smell and horrible taste. Enter “e-cigarettes”.

First introduced in 2003, electronic cigarettes (“e-cigarettes”) quickly became popular for theatres stuck between the rock of smoking bans and the hard place of artistic freedom. They completely eliminate the hazard of second-hand smoke (the “smoke” is actually just water vapor), and seem to pose minimal risk to the user. However, because they are so new, our knowledge of them and their effects is in constant flux; a lot has changed just in this past year. Just last week, the FDA was blocked from stopping e-cigarette shipments to the United States. This means that, for now at least, they remain unregulated but legal to use here.

The FDA has been railing against electronic cigarettes since last July, when they released a study. What’s important to take away from their results is not that e-cigarettes are necessarily dangerous, but that their potential dangers are unstudied, and without regulation their ingredients may not be fully disclosed. In one article, we find that:

  • All but one of the cartridges was marked as having no nicotine when they actually contained the addictive substance.
  • The cartridges that were marked as having low, medium, or high amounts of nicotine actually have varying amounts of nicotine.
  • One of the cartridges tested positive for having a toxic antifreeze ingredient, diethylene glycol.
  • The devices were emitting “tobacco-specific nitrosamines which are human carcinogens.”
  • The devices were also emitting tobacco-specific impurities that are suspected of being harmful to humans.

(Health News, FDA Warns Against E-Cigarettes)

When we use e-cigarettes, we choose the “zero-nicotine” cartridges. What’s troubling in this report is that even these might contain nicotine. The danger is not necessarily the nicotine; nicotine is not one of the ingredients in cigarettes which causes cancer, and is not toxic in the amount found in cigarettes (read more about the complicated toxicology of nicotine). The danger comes from the possibility of mislabeled products. An actor on the nicotine patch (or other smoking cessation therapy involving nicotine) who smokes an e-cigarette under the false assumption that it contains no nicotine can overdose. I overdosed when I was on the patch, and it was painful, ugly, and frightening. Secondly, mislabeling the amount of one ingredient draws concern that other, more dangerous ingredients, are left unlisted.

A second article from last July adds:

Scott Ceretta is a respiratory therapist and works with the American Lung Association in Tucson. He explains, “First off is the safety. The manufacturer of this product claim that it’s safe and only has nicotine and doesn’t have the harmful chemicals found in tobacco. But, again, we’ve been lied to before.” Dr. Scott Leischow of the Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson says it’s likely e-cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes with tobacco. But, he adds they haven’t been adequately tested here. Dr. Leischow tells News 4, “We don’t know, this propylene glycol that the nicotine is mixed in, we don’t know what happens when a person inhales that over a long period of time.”

(KVOA News 4, Investigating the health of e-cigarettes)

Again, it’s not that e-cigarettes are dangerous; but a lack of testing so far cannot prove what effects they have on the human body. You can read the full report of FDA analysis (pdf) for more information which includes a diagram of how an e-cigarette works. They tested the “Njoy e-cigarette” and “Smoking Everywhere Electronic Cigarette” brands.

In response to the FDA’s study, Exponent Health Sciences carried out their own analysis. They found a number of flaws in the study, mostly relating to the amounts of chemicals not listed in the ingredients, and how they relate to FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapy products. In some cases, the disparities between the listed and actual ingredients which caused the FDA such great concern was less severe than in products they actually approve of.  Exponent was commissioned by the Njoy company, but the two companies are separate and discrete entities.

Let’s assume that the labels are correct. How does propylene glycol affect us? Here is an article from 1942:

Propylene glycol is harmless to man when swallowed or injected into the veins. It is also harmless to mice who have breathed it for long periods. But medical science is cautious—there was still a remote chance that glycol might accumulate harmfully in the erect human lungs which, unlike those of mice, do not drain themselves. So last June Dr. Robertson began studying the effect of glycol vapor on monkeys imported from the University of Puerto Rico’s School of Tropical Medicine. So far, after many months’ exposure to the vapor, the monkeys are happy and fatter than ever.

(Time Magazine, Medicine: Air Germicide)

We should of course be skeptical of a science article from 1942. DNA had not even been discovered yet, and cigarettes were still endorsed by doctors. Still, propylene glycol is used in many theatrical fog machines and hazers, and the dangers are known and their use regulated by Actors’ Equity. The concern over propylene glycol in e-cigarettes was described in ACTS FACTS last August after the FDA’s report was released:

Our concern is that, like the theatrical fog machines which also contain propylene glycol, this chemical will dissociate into toxic chemicals do when the e-cigarette heats or burns them. Since good actors can carry off the deception without inhaling, e-cigs still appear safer than real cigarettes for both the smokers and others on stage.

(ACTS FACTS, Monona Rossol, Editor. August 2009. www.artscraftstheatersafety.org)

They then return to my earlier point about accurate labeling:

But these points are moot if Chinese manufacturers cannot assure us that they can keep diethylene glycol and carcinogens out of e-cigs. At this point we have no advice and await further data.

(ibid.)

So Equity, for the most part allows them at this point (though some say they’ve had problems).

Since the rules seem to be changing so fast these days, and local laws differ vastly, you can’t be assured of anything. Look at the legal status of e-cigarettes around the world, and you can see how the USA is one of the few countries that still allows them. Also, understand that that list is probably out of date already. Before you drop a hundred or so dollars on an e-cigarette system, check with both your Actors’ Equity representative and production manager whether they are still allowed in your theater for your production. Make sure your actor understands that inhalation is not necessary for the effect and should be limited or avoided as much as possible. Finally, try to find the most reputable brand you can to avoid the problem of dishonest labeling. You should do all this the first time someone mentions they’d like to have one of the characters smoking on stage. For now, as long as we have fog machines, pyrotechnics, flying rigs, stage firearms and other dangerous devices on stage, I believe the monitored use of e-cigarettes can be safely regulated.