Notes From the Ashtray

The Spy Who Loved Smoking

Dylan Gyles

"The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.” –Opening line from Casino Royale, the first James Bond novel.

In the original novels by Ian Fleming, James Bond is a heavy smoker, putting away between sixty and seventy cigarettes a day. Bond and his author both smoked Morland cigarettes. In Casino Royale we learn that Morland rolls unique cigarettes specifically for Bond, a Balkan-Turkish mixture with extra nicotine and three gold bands around the filter, signifying his rank as commander in naval intelligence. He is fiercely brand loyal while in London, but as an international spy, he is often out of the country and forced to smoke other cigarettes. While in America and Bahamas he smokes Chesterfields, in Jamaica he smokes Royal Blend and in Istanbul he smokes Diplomates, which he comes to prefer over his Morlands.

“He pushed over a flat white box of cigarettes and Bond sat down and took a cigarette and lit it. It was the most wonderful cigarette he had ever tasted – the mildest and sweetest of Turkish tobacco in a slim long oval tube with an elegant gold crescent.” –From Russia with Love

Bond briefly switches to Senior Service in Thunderball, The Spy Who Loved Me and The Man With the Golden Gun in order to bring his smoking habit down to a more reasonable ten cigarettes a day, though this is only during a strict training regimen.

Bond carries his Morlands in a black gun metal cigarette case, which holds an inexplicable fifty cigarettes. The case saves Bond’s life in From Russia With Love when he hides it between the pages of a book and uses it to deflect a bullet aimed at his heart. Bond is also almost killed by a cigarette case in the film adaptation of The Man With the Golden Gun. The villain of the film, Francisco Scaramanga, famed one-shot assassin, attempts to kill Bond with his signature weapon, a golden pistol composed of interlocking pieces disguised as a fountain pen, a lighter, a cufflink and a cigarette case.

On screen, James Bond does not quite match the sixty-a-day habit from the novels, but he does smoke in eleven of the twenty-three 007 films. Sean Connery, who took up the Bond mantel for the first five films, is introduced in Dr. No with a cigarette between his lips. Roger Moore wanted to differentiate his portrayal of the character and as an avid cigar enthusiast, smoked cigars exclusively throughout his seven films. George Lazenby and Timothy Dalton were not heavy smokers, but they both smoke the occasional cigarettes as Bond in the collective three movies they starred in. Pierce Brosnan was the first actor to lay claim to a smokeless Bond, but he eventually buckled and puffed a cigar in his final film Die Another Day. The current Bond, Daniel Craig, is the only one to refuse to light up in character. Craig is a heavy smoker off camera, but he sees Bond smoking as a logistical problem. In an interview he stated:

“I don’t wish for [Bond] to smoke. Fleming wrote a Bond who smoked 60 cigarettes a day. I can’t do that and then run two-and-a-half miles down a road, it just doesn’t tie in.”

Bond may remain a non-smoker on film, but the future of his tobacco use in novels is not yet determined. William Boyd, the latest author to take up writing the 007 novels, has promised fans a return to Ian Fleming’s original character, which may or may not include his nicotine addiction. James Bond was created in a black and white cold war England. He was not socially, politically, or health conscious, he never had to question his actions or consider the villain’s perspective. He smoked sixty cigarettes a day because he didn’t expect to live long enough for them to kill him.

“You start to die the moment you are born. The whole of life is cutting through the pack with death. So take it easy. Light a cigarette and be grateful you are still alive as you suck the smoke deep into your lungs.” –Live and Let Die

As seems to be a reoccurring theme among authors who write about smokers, Ian Fleming died at age 53 from a heart attack, brought on by a life of smoking eighty cigarettes a day.

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Dylan Gyles

Dylan Gyles is a writer and barista. He writes short fiction and creative non-fiction. He is originally from Winnipeg and now lives in Vancouver.


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