I was at a local tobacco parlor today and was surprised to see a notice that Iowa Law had changed and selling loosies is now illegal. “Loosies” are loose cigarettes, sold individually. Now it is illegal to sell less than 1 pack with 20 cigarettes. The tobacco parlor did a fair business selling loosies at 55 cents each. I know they sell a lot of loosies, because I bought a lot of loosies there myself.
I sometimes cave in on my attempt to quit smoking. I bought a single smoke now and then, and then gave them up and tried to go back to nonsmoking. If I just bought a single loosie, I wouldn’t have to buy a whole pack. And if I have a pack, I’ll smoke them all, all 20. And then I’ve totally caved in and started smoking a pack a day again.
The clerk at the shop said they could not sell loosies, but they had a bag of loose tobacco, I could roll my own, that’s the only way they could sell a single smoke. I rolled a couple of smokes from their rough shag tobacco. I smoked the two hand-rolls (with filters) and felt like I smoked a whole pack (cough). The tobacco guy said, “couldn’t you just buy a whole pack and then only smoke one? And then put the rest aside?” No, that’s exactly what I can’t do, if I have cigarettes around, I’ll smoke them. I am trying to quit and having cigarettes around is a temptation I can’t resist. But if I have to go all the way across town just to buy one or two, that is inconvenient enough to resist.
Anyway, loosies are a menace. They’re for losers like me who can only have one smoke. They’re sold in places that attract people who can only afford one cigarette, like the homeless and street beggars. I remember one incident where I had incredible bad timing to be on Skid Row at midnight in search of a loosie. Wrong time, wrong place.
A friend of mine invited me to a party in an art director’s loft in downtown LA, just off Skid Row in a high-security building. She was having a wrap party for the film Repo Man. About midnight, my friend and I ran out of cigarettes. There was a 24 hour convenience store a half-block away on the corner of 4th and Wall St., the core of skid row, the absolute worst place in the city. They had a security window on the sidewalk where they sold cheap whiskey and Thunderbird wine to street winos, and single loosies to the panhandling street people. It was about a block from the Skid Row Mission, this was the deadliest block on LA’s Skid Row. The artist’s loft was only possible in this neighborhood due to the impenetrable concrete building with heavy security and indoor parking.
Edit 2015: My friend J recently visited me, it was his sister’s loft. He told me, “I remember that place, we called it Murder Liquor!”
Well anyway, my friend and I, both being downtown Loft District residents, Skid Row didn’t scare us, and we could watch each other’s backs, so we foolishly left the fortified loft and went out into the street, down to the corner store. You could buy 4 loosies with a dollar, that was about all the cash you could flash on Skid Row or you’d get robbed. But as soon as we had paid a dollar for our smokes, we were surrounded by some toughs with switchblades. I offered them a loosie but some people will do anything for one dollar. The thugs brandished their knives and demanded our money, and just as they were about to make good on their threats, suddenly from out of nowhere, an LAPD car screeched to a halt right at the curb right beside us. The thugs scattered, and the officer approached. He asked what we were doing here, I said we’d just come from around the corner at a loft party and we were buying cigarettes. The cop said we better get the hell out of here fast or he’d arrest us.. We ran straight back to the party and didn’t re-emerge until morning when I got my car out of their security garage. Well at least I got a few loosies, even if I had to risk my life for them. They’re killing me slowly anyway.
So loosies are a menace to your health and probably a menace to society in general. But worst of all, the new unavailability of loosies is going to force me to deal with my ineffective attempts to quit tobacco. I already bought a whole pack today, since I couldn’t get just one loosie.