News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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December 5, 2013


Leaving Baesler’s Market the other day, making my round of errands, I started to re-light my cigar. It was left over from the day before and I did not place it in the humidor. It had gotten too dry, so I threw it into my garbage sack asking myself the question, “Why do I do this?” Well, I do it because I enjoy it.

I, like many men of my age, did not smoke early on because of being involved in athletics. My father said to me, “You can smoke if you want to, but I won’t sign the card of permission to play sports.” So it wasn’t until high school sports were over for me that I picked up a cigarette to smoke. I did not like to inhale, so I didn’t. But all of my friends smoked and when I joined the Air Force smoking was “smoke ’em if you got ’em,” and of course field-stripping a cigarette was something you learned so as not to leave anything behind on the smoking break. (By the by, if you smoked filters, you stuck the filter in your pocket to throw away in a trash can later.)

I continued this process in the first couple of years of my Air Force time and one day, in a dollar limit poker game, I found myself sitting on the back of a chair, my feet in the seat with an ash tray between my feet and six lighted cigarettes burning. Obviously, I was paying more attention to the game than I was having that many cigarettes on fire.

I realized that was rather insane. I won some money, so with that money I bought a dozen pair of underwear and a box of cigars. When I lit up the first cigar, I remembered the commercials I had heard about how good this cigarette tastes compared to others. In smoking this cigar, I realized cigarettes had no taste at all. So, I became a cigar smoker. And, again, I was not inhaling the smoke.

Years later I was reading an article in Newsweek (when Newsweek was a printed magazine), and it was quoting an article in the New England Journal of Medicine … one of the most prestigious magazines devoted to medicine. I’m writing this from memory, but the article basically said if you smoked three cigars or less in a day’s time, your chance of having this affect you with cancer was 3 percent positive or 3 percent negative. Since I rarely get to smoke more than one cigar a day and do not inhale, I figure my chances of being felled by my cigars are next to nothing. Now, I understand that any time we smoke, our bodies can react in a rather negative way. I guess I’m going with the odds.

Three of my political and historic heroes were all cigar smokers … John Kennedy, Winston Churchill and Sam Grant. Of the three, only Grant was affected by his smoking. It’s reported that General Grant smoked as many as 24 cigars a day. Of course, he inhaled. Frankly, I have no idea how you would find the time to smoke 24 cigars in one day. But General Grant did, to his detriment, since he would die with throat cancer.

Jack Kennedy was gunned down in the prime of his life and, I believe, Winston Churchill died at 86 or thereabouts.

The reason my cigar went bad on me in my car is because it is the only place I can smoke a cigar without bothering other people. I jokingly remark that I smoke a cigar in my car because it kills the moths. And true to the boast, there are none in my little car.

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.

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