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Smoking ain't cheap.

This isn't a new trend. As we are all well aware, over the last ten years, the average price of a pack of cigarettes has more than quadrupled, hitting $8 in many places, like New York City. Across the country states are banning cigarette smoking in bars and are using sin taxes to subsidize tax cuts for the affluent, who could be the only people that can afford to smoke if this trend continues for another decade.

While it's possible to find cheap smokes in a state like North Carolina, where the average price of a pack is $3.15, or in Virginia, where the state hasn't boosted cigarette taxes in 37 years, the simple fact is smokers invariably end up buying cigarettes at the last minute. And at $8 a pop, or 40 cents a smoke, it's getting patently ridiculous to pay a premium to kill yourself, especially when you can't even smoke indoors anymore.

But if you think that's bad, try being one of the nation's millions of incarcerated inmates -- many of which have been forced to quit cold turkey in smoke-free prisons. Cigarettes in jail can cost as much as $40 a piece.

As with pruno, a prison wine made from all manner of things, inmates have turned to common items to get their fix, crafting smokes from dried spinach, spices and even coffee grounds. And as with pruno, prisons have cracked down, with Kansas prison officials removing spinach from the prison menu during a 1994 crackdown, trying desperately to stop the practice.

In an interview with the Associated Press, explaining the change to prison menus, Sgt. Ruth Divelbiss commented, "It smells terrible. You can't print what it smells like. When you don't have tobacco, you do what you have to do."

Indeed. Once again, The Black Table does what it has to do and doffs the crash helmet to investigate further.

Smoke up, Johnny!


Paperback Book
Toilet Paper
Dried Mint
Dried Oregano
Tea Bags
Cotton Balls
Lighter or Matches


Step One: Prepare Your "Tobacco."

Cigarettes, or at least the idea of smoking crap out of a rolled up bit of paper or leaves, have been around for thousands of years. Unlike other inmate-inspired projects, like making pruno, rolling homemade cigarettes is uncomplicated, provided you understand the basic steps, which are the same whether you're rolling a Spinach Cig or a Menthol Knock-Off.

Start with the most basic, tried-and-true homemade smoke -- the spinach cigarette. But before you can stop, drop, and roll that salad up, the spinach needs to be dried out.



1. Buy one pound of spinach and a newspaper you've never read before, preferably something with a lot of names, numbers and places in it. 2. Cover an article you can't comprehend with some leafy green spinach and 3. feel good about combining two things that you don't enjoy -- spinach and reading the business page -- in one activity designed to mimic something you do enjoy, which is smoking. 4. Wait three days for your spinach to learn all about how America's push for a strong dollar may weaken economies around the globe, so that you can learn it too, when you smoke the spinach.

By the time your spinach understands the economics of currency devaluation, it should be completely dry. This will take your spinach about four days. Once dried, it is completely possible to scrunch the spinach between your fingertips, but those of you with a penant for using kitchen tools should note the following directions.




Step Two: Choose Your Paper

In prison, there are a many schools of thought on what to roll your cigarettes with, but for our purposes, we will focus on just three:

Part One: The T.P. Method.



Many prefer to use toilet paper, which is easy to obtain, easy to roll and extremely quick burning. Try to find a nice double- or triple-ply, if you can, and avoid using quilted or ribbed papers, which may be harder for newcomers to roll. While using toilet paper is the simplest method, the end result is also the least desirable, looking like some cigarillo/tampon hybrid that's hard to take a big pull off of.

1. Start by putting a small-to-medium sized amount of dried spinach on the toilet paper, then carefully 2. fold the left side of the paper over, 3. followed by the right side of the paper. Next, 4. fold up the bottom, creating a little "pouch" for the dried spinach, which 5. you can then roll up -- taking care not to rip the paper like a useless clod -- into 6. a finished toilet paper-based smoke.



Part Two: Adventures in Science Fiction.

Only extremely dedicated spinach smokers need apply for this method of rolling, which uses pages from paperback books to wrap the spinach and involves a complicated array of techniques and procedures. The process may be long, but the end result is worth it, creating a tightly wound smoke that you can read before lighting.

The absolute best paper to use in this kind of cigarette is the thin, onion-skinned kind that is usually found in huge dictionaries or spiffy,


expensive versions of the Bible. Since we don't know what would happen if you smoked Jesus -- and because we don't want to risk eternal damnation to find out -- we highly recommend you use one of those old paperbacks you have lying around.

Since we couldn't bear to set fire to our nine-volume set of Dragonlance books, we turned to a slim volume called Slan, which was written by A.E. van Vogt in 1946. In the novel, written in 1946, genetically-advanced telepaths called "slans" are persecuted by ordinary folks and targeted for death. All hell breaks loose when Jommy Cross, a nine-


year-old slan, visits the capital city of Centropolis, loses his mother to anti-slan violence and gets involved in a plot to take down Kier Gray, Earth's dictator.

Sounds smokable to us!

1. Start by cutting out a small strip of paper, about the size of a cigarette rolling paper. We used part of chapter 10, when someone points a gun at little Jommy and there are all these slan people around and it's totally cool. Set aside this paper for later. 2. Grab a big ol' stack of envelopes and 3. heavily lick the back of a few of

  them, which should make the glue very tacky. 4. Use your finger to scrape the glue from the back of the envelopes and 5. wipe it on the strip of paper you previously set aside. 6. Place a small amount of spinach on the paper, reminding yourself not to be a Greedy Gus  

or you'll never get that thing rolled correctly. 7. Pinch the paper together and start rolling it together, making sure not to let the spinach hit the glue. 8. Right before you seal the cigarette, reactivate the glue from the envelope to ensure a perfect seal. 9. You will now have a cigarette that's also a sci-fi classic.

Part Three: You Lazy Sod!

Fine, so you're not the kind of person who wants to smoke toilet paper and can't be bothered to scrape glue from the back of envelopes. Maybe you're not in prison. Maybe you're a boring, middle class kid looking for some kicks in a bag of spinach. Then by all means, please feel free to go to the store and buy some rolling papers, but keep in mind you're losing about a billion coolness points. Instead of doing some insane craft project to make a cigarette from household items in an attempt to see how it's done in prison, you're merely sitting around the house scheming to smoke the spice rack.




Extra Credit: There's More To This Than Spinach.



The Menthol Knock-Off: Menthol cigarette smokers are a different breed, opting to smoke a cigarette whose flavor is derived, in part, from fiberglass and all kinds of crap that even unfiltered smokers wince at. So straight spinach ain't gonna cure their cravings. Take out some spinach, mix in some dried mint, and viola -- a menthol smoke that doesn't have insulation in it. Our panel of reviewers found this blend to "taste minty in a bad way" with an aftertaste that was "like being locked in a hair factory during a three alarm blaze."



The Grade Schooler: Back in the day, elementary school kids looking for a kick would sell each other oregano in little bags and pass it off for pot. Well, when you're in jail, oregano might as well *be* pot. Before lighting, smokers found this classic blend to "smell like pizza smells in scratch and sniff stickers," but upon lighting, the smoke was "acrid and assy" giving the smoker "migraines for hours and a stupid feeling that will linger for all eternity."



The English Special: Spinach can have a bit of a stinky aroma for those unaccustomed to smoking crap rolled in crap and glued shut with more crap. Perhaps these wimps are in need of a less full-flavored smoke? This is where the billion tea bags you have lying around come in handy. Instead of spinach, cut open a couple Earl Greys and go to town. Smokers complained "there's too much of this tea shit coming into my mouth" but noted that "the spinach doesn't reek because of the tea." The tea cigarette "wasn't entirely unpleasant" but smokers "really didn't want to do this anymore."


  The Caffeinated Combo: For millions of Americans, a cup of coffee and a cigarette was considered breakfast. Well now you can simplify this process even further by smoking your coffee. Coffee grounds, that is! Of all the blends, the coffee and spinach combo "tasted most like a joint, albeit a very old joint" and "was not completely awful by any means." While many said the "coffee flavor isn't coming through too well," others noted that the spinach "added an interesting topnote -- and that's always nice."  


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