It’s 1827, and you’re a social Englishman. Among fellow English gentlemen, you sit discussing the disappointment that was Mary Shelley’s 1826 novel, The Last Man. Bored with the subject matter, you excuse yourself for the evening. But as you rise from a fine mahogany chair, a hot sensation erupts in your pants pocket. Your trousers are immediately engulfed in flames, and you have to strip them off in front of a room full of astounded guests. Horrified, you slink away, running near-nude to your home as your wife awaits your return. She inquires, “Where are the matches? I’ve been waiting to light the stove for dinner.” This is your third pair of trousers ruined this month. Your wife is not happy. You could have died, and you’re fresh out of pants. It’s 1827, and friction-lit matches were recently invented, but a vessel for transport that will prevent them from igniting… More…

My name is Erica, and I was once addicted to menthol. Specifically, I was hooked on Halls mentholated cough drops. When I was in high school and college, it was not unusual for me to go through a bag of cough drops a day. I didn’t think of it as addiction at the time. In fact, I’d pretty much forgotten about my former habit until this past year, when I found out that the FDA is considering banning menthol in cigarettes. Some public health advocates have argued that menthol may be addictive on its own, or, at the very least, that it makes quitting smoking more difficult, and their evidence is pretty convincing.

Menthol may not be as habit-forming as nicotine or even caffeine, but it is a drug nonetheless — one that the FDA regulates when it’s used as an ingredient in cough drops, mouthwash, and other… More…

Wander through the 11th arrondissement of Paris toward the dead celebrities of Pere Lachaise Cemetery, and there’s a decent chance you’ll stumble across a small gallery called “Le Musée du Fumeur.” Unlike the hallowed halls of the Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay, there is no tyranny of expectation in this tiny, smoking-themed museum. No smiling Mona Lisa or reclining Olympia dictates where the random tourist should focus his attention. Thus left to meander, the drop-in visitor may well overlook the more earnest exhibits here — such as Egyptian sheeshas or Chinese opium pipes — and note the small, red-circle-and-slash signs reminding guests that, in no uncertain terms, smoking is strictly forbidden in the Museum of Smoking.

In spite of this startling contradiction, there is a notable lack of irony in Le Musée du Fumeur, which crams an eclectic array of international smoking-culture relics into a 650-square-foot storefront near Rue de… More…