Tag Archives: smoking

Puff Puff Pass

Main Piece: 

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and the interviewer.

Interviewer: So you’re an avid weed smoker, right?

Informant: oh yeah, I’ve been smoking basically everyday since highschool. 

Interviewer: Dope, dope my guy… So I know there’s a lot of stoner-specific terms which are thrown around when people are smoking together, do you have any idea what some of these would be?

Informant: Yeah definitely, for starters, a lot of my friends call weed “kush” or “bud” amongst a bunch of other things haha… and everyone knows the whole 4:20 hype, but I’d say the biggest one by far is “puff puff pass”. 

Interviewer: and what does “Puff Puff Pass” Actually mean?

Informant: It’s basically when you’re smoking a joint or something and you’re supposed to only take two puffs before you pass it to the next person in the rotation. It’s mostly a respect thing just so everyone’s getting their fair share of bud and all that. 


My informant is from Minnesota, growing up with a mix of liberal and conservative friends. His parents were both born in America, however, have more republican views than my informant’s more liberal views. Even though he lived in Minnesota, weed is still very prevalent amongst the youth there. He moved to California for college and his smoking habits have stayed more or less the same. 


I think it’s interesting how stoner culture is generally looked at in a negative light, with people saying they’re lazy or disrespectful, while in reality, they have countless sayings and proverbs enforcing moral “rules” on how to be the best smoke buddy. I also found it interesting that stoner culture’s around the world use the phrase “puff puff pass” even though most of the other slang that people use tends to  vary a lot between places and age groups. 

“Three On a Match” Superstition

Main Text:

Lighting three cigarettes with the same match is bad luck.


DS said she heard this over the years of smoking and people had mentioned it to her if she was using matches. She said that she remembers it because she used to be a heavy smoker and it came up fairly often so she would avoid using the same match to light multiple cigarettes just in case in order to avoid any chance of bad luck falling upon her and her family. When I asked her if she would pass this belief along to anyone she said she probably would not because it never really made much sense to her and she does not see many people smoking with matches anymore.


To understand why this piece is passed down it is important to go back to the origins and see where it may have originated from and the theories for why the folk group smokers think “three on a match” is bad luck.

One of the origins of this phrase comes all the way form World War I. If three soldiers were smoking cigarettes during the dark hours of the night then superstition held that one of them was going to die. This is because they believed that striking the match on the box would alert the enemy to the presences of the soldiers and as the matched burned to light the second cigarette the enemy would have time to aim his gun in the direction of where he now knows that the soldiers are. Finally as the third cigarette was being lit up the enemy shooter would be able to see and shoot the third soldier. I think this theory is important because it begins to explain why many smokers in America know and hold this belief because they were taught and/or experienced it way back in the early 1900s. When the war ended in 1918, many of the men who fought in the war came back to the America and shared this superstition they had when out in the battlefield to their families and friends who were also smokers and I believe that this is one of the reasons it caught on initially and still carries on today, even if people do not know why they say it.

Another theory that can be used to analyze how this superstition originated and why it still gets passed along is the theory of the Holy Trinity. Many very religious people that I have known and spoken to in my lifetime believe that using the Holy Trinity symbol (or performing things in threes) as a casual act is very disrespectful to the Holy Law. People who do this they say are helpless in the face of evil (even to the devil himself). To apply this to smoking, this notion has spread and said that those smokers who do light three cigarettes from one match disrespect the Holy Trinity, cause evilness (or bad luck) to come upon them and “light the fires of hell” themselves with that one match that they used. People who happened to be religious who also smoked more likely than not shared this belief with the people that they smoked with and this is how it spread around the smoking community.

The final theory took some research but it explains this folk belief in a more reasonable ( to corporate America at least) way. This theory is about Ivar Kreugar who was a deceitful businessman who bought many matchmaking factories in the 1920’s and monopolized them. This made him rich and powerful to the point where he could spread an entire superstition without question from those he told it to, probably the matchmakers and smokers themselves. The theory goes that Kruegar made up this superstition and then got it to spread among the smoking community as a way for people to use more matches which allows him to sell more matches and make more money.

To summarize, there are three theories that I believe help to explain why this superstition was formed and how it spread to smokers in the United States. The first theory is that during Wold War I this superstition was shared among smokers on the battlefield as a way to make sure that they keep their matches and noises associated with using them hidden from the enemy to not disclose their location and get killed. The second theory is that doing something casual such as lighting a match in threes disrespects Holy Law because of the Holy Trinity and causes evil to come upon you. The third and final theory was that a businessman by the name of Ivar Kreugar monopolized many matchmaking factories in the United States and created this superstition as a way to have people buy more matches so that he could make more money.

A Smoker’s Superstition

The following is a conversation with CL that describes his interpretation of a superstition found among smokers.


CL: As the story goes, back in World War One, there were three soldiers, I don’t know what army they were fighting for or whatever, but they were all in a trench and they were going to have a cigarette, but they only had one match. So, they lit the match, and the first soldier got his cigarette lit. And across the way, there was another soldier watching and saw the light, so he aimed his rifle at the light. And the second cigarette got lit with the next soldier, and that time the soldier across the way took aim. And then the third soldier got his cigarette lit, and the soldier across the way fired and killed all three soldiers. So, it has become unlucky to light three cigarettes off the same match.


EK: Interesting, so do you partake in this superstition yourself?


CL: Absolutely. To this day you’ll find people that will- guys sitting around having cigarettes will give a light to one person with a lighter, and then a second person, and then will stop the light and light the third cigarette with a different lighter. But to this day, I’m not sure if this soldier story is true or not, but smokers partake in it all the time.


EK: So where did you here this from, other than just being a smoker yourself?


CL: That comes down to me from my mom who told me that story when I was much younger. And yeah, I use it myself, so I guess that’s what it means to me, haha.


My Interpretation:

As a non-smoker, I’m not familiar with this superstition. However, several family members of mine are smokers and do partake in this superstition, though as I’ve asked around, not many know the root of the superstition like CL. Though I find the superstition to be strange, I think that smokers find the superstition very serious. I assume that they believe that if they don’t follow this rule, that a variety of bad things associated with smoking could happen to them. Happenings such as dropping the match and everything catching on fire, getting lung cancer, or maybe even just losing your lighter or box of cigarettes, would all be motivation for a smoker to follow through on this superstition, because it’s not worth the chance that these things could happen.

White Lighter

Informant: Samantha is a 23-year-old artist living in Southern California. She uses marijuana and is an active participant in cannabis culture.

Main Piece: “Okay so…the white lighter myth is all about how a bunch of famous musicians, like Kurt Cobain and I think Jimi Hendrix, died when they were 27. And then, when they did the autopsy, they all had white bic lighters in their pockets. So, the idea is, if you’re 27 and you’re smoking, you shouldn’t use a white lighter or you die. For safety you probably shouldn’t ever use a white lighter, just in case.”

Background Information about the Performance: This piece was originally told to the informant by her friend and drug dealer at a party. The informant finds it important to remember in order to not make a mistake and use a white lighter, thus instigating bad luck.

Context of Performance: This piece is told at parties or among marijuana smokers as a warning. It is very serious, and smokers will be upset if somebody brings a white lighter to a party.

Thoughts: I have actually heard of this superstition as part of the belief of the 27 Club, alluding to the group of celebrities who have died at age 27. Although some sources have attempted to dispel this superstition – finding, for example, that Bic only began making white lighters after Jimi Hendrix’s death – it still remains popular.

For another version of this myth, see Jack Pendarvis’ Cigarette Lighter.
Pendarvis, Jack. Cigarette Lighter. London: Bloomsbury, 2016. Google Books. 28 Jan. 2016. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.

Cigarette Ritual

My informant states that he and his close friends share the practice of choosing a cigarette in a freshly purchased pack of cigarettes and flipping it over, so that out of all the cigarettes that have the butt sticking out, there is one odd white one. This supposed cigarette that is odd one out is a lucky cigarette. My informant states that he always save this cigarette for a bad day and once he smokes it he will either have a good day or a great night. But the one catch is that the buyer of the pack cannot choose the lucky cigarette, a friend must always be at the time you purchase a new pack and also choose it at the point to get the luck charm.

My informant believes in this whole-heartedly and thus tells this to all of his friends and makes sure that they follow the rules and also reap the benefits of this superstition. He states that he was told about this through his older friend, when he bought a pack of cigarettes for the first time.

This is an interesting piece of folklore, as it is a fun practice for such a bad habit. I believe whoever started this piece of folklore was trying shed a positive light on smoking cigarettes. It is also an interesting ritual started by visuals as the image of a cigarette just being the odd one out in a pack of cigarettes is like finding a four-leaf clover in grass. The visual of picking a certain “blessed object” appeals to people to brighten up their day.

The Meaning of Greens

This piece of folklore is actually a custom among Marijuana smokers. This custom states that whenever it is someone’s first time smoking that they get to “greens.” Greens is basically a name for a custom where a person gets to light the marijuana first whether it be in a pipe or a rolled up joint. My informant states that he heard this through his friend who is a big fan of marijuana. He states that offering the person who either put the weed in the pipe or rolled a joint is a huge deal and demonstrates a large amount of respect for the person that did the tasks.

He states that greens is important to smokers as it demonstrates their kindness and also is a common courtesy for guests when the smoke for the first time or smoke with the group for the first time. He states that it is comparable to offering someone a drink of water when they enter your home. He also states that by explaining greens and passing it on, that everyone now is a part of it and keeps the cycle going.

I think this is a very interesting piece of folklore due to the stereotypes users of marijuana have in our culture. They are known as lazy and selfish people, yet this illustration demonstrates that friendship and courtesy that there is in smoking. It is also interesting that the drug culture always seem to have rituals or ways of order to not mess something up. It basically proves that among drug users that there is a personal courtesy or secrecy among them, thus users can decipher first timers from consistent users easily. For example if a first-timer did not offer greens or did not know what greens was.

Flipping two Cigarettes, “One for luck…”

When you buy a new pack of cigarettes, you take two out and flip them upside down, and smoke those two last. It’s “one for luck, and one for fuck” — one for good luck, and one to smoke after you’ve had sex, often to share with the person.

This is a common tradition among many smokers, especially in New York. My informant first heard it in early high school, from girls that would smoke between classes. She’s been doing it as long as she’s been smoking.

Since smoking is generally considered a vice, I think it’s probably a way to ‘negate’ that, and make it something ‘lucky’ and good.