Cigarette Smoking Guide

A Tutorial

So you've decided to start smoking, but don't know how to go about it?

First off be advised that it isn't as easy as it looks. People seem do it casually because they are very practiced at it, but don't be fooled like anything, it takes some work to get it right!

I'm going to assume that you have some store-bought filter cigarettes, and a source of ignition (like a match or lighter). If you don't, I have another document that may help.

Examining the cigarette

Filter photo Tobacco photo
Filter End Tobacco End

Upon opening your pack and removing a cigarette you will notice there are two differing ends to your cigarette. The filter end (known as the "filter"), and the tobacco end (known as the "rod"). They meet internally at a juncture which is frequently delimited on the paper wrapping outside by either a printed line, or a change in color or texture.

Juncture photo


Lets practice some mechanics before you light up. When smoking a cigarette, you do not inhale the smoke directly into your lungs; rather, you use your mouth as a staging area.

When at rest, there is usually very little air in your mouth - but you can make an air pocket by keeping your lips closed and lowering your jaw - keeping your tongue at the bottom. This will allow for about 20 cc's of air.

Exercise 1) Exhale. Create the air pocket in your mouth as described above. Inhale through your nose while closing down the air pocket in your mouth. This will mix the air in your mouth with the air entering though your nose down into your lungs.

Exercise 2) [optional] Exhale. Create the air pocket in your mouth as described above. Inhale through your mouth. This will mix the air in your mouth with the new air entering your mouth. This is generally considered more harsh - and is not recommended for starting out.

Holding the Cigarette

This is largely a matter of personal preference, but in general you hold the cigarette in one hand somewhere on the filter. Not at the very end, though - as that will eventually have to go into your mouth.

Try putting the cigarette up to your mouth. You need to put your lips around the tip of the filter (only about 5mm in). The filter end should not extend into your mouth farther than your teeth, and probably won't even get that far.

How is that grip going? Did you find you had to change it? You should be able to hold the cigarette loosely between your lips, even when not holding onto it with your hand.

Now try holding the cigarette in your lips and drawing some air in through it. Don't draw the air all the way into your lungs, but into that air pocket from Exercise 1. Use it like straw. It will be more difficult than a normal straw to pull air into, but you should be able to feel the mechanics of it.

With cigarettes, you only draw air in - you never blow air out.

Lighting Up

While it is possible to light a cigarette without "puffing" on it (like a straw) it is difficult. When you are first lighting the cigarette - don't be concerned about getting any smoke into your lungs, there'll be plenty of time for that later!

To light the cigarette, hold it in your mouth and bring your flame source near the tip. You don't need to put the tip into the flame - just bring the edges of the cigarette and the flame together. Then "puff" a little bit. It should draw the flame somewhat into the cigarette. And that's it!

Examine the lit end of the cigarette. It should be glowing uniformly around all edges. If you only have one part of the tip in ember, rotate the cigarette and apply the flame again, again puffing.

Smoking Proper

Once you're lit, all you have to do is repeat Exercise 1, except this time fill your mouth with smoke from the cigarette by using it like a straw.

Some brands of cigarette will extinguish themselves if you don't keep puffing on them every so often while others will not. Keep in mind lit cigarettes are a source of heat and fire - so be careful with them. Also they can and do cause cancer, so don't ever smoke them.

When to Stop

Once the cigarette has burned most of its way to the filter juncture, it is time to start thinking about stopping. Always stop before it gets to the juncture. I recommend stopping at between 8 and 12mm. When it gets too much closer than that, the smoke can get too warm and possibly burn your mouth.


To extinguish a cigarette, throw it on the ground while still burning, and pretend not to notice you did that. If you are in a car, throw it out the window while it is still immolated so as to cause people like me to swear at you. Man I hate it when people do that.

This article was written on August 3, 2001.