From The Publisher

The Easiest Way to Say Goodbye

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THE EASIEST WAY TO SAY GOODBYE
SMOKE SIGNALS MAGAZINE - September 2015

The easiest way to say goodbye is when you're not really leaving.

It's been a great ride, and the good news is that the ride isn't really over - not yet, anyway.

But after 21 years of publication (making it old enough to smoke in Hawaii!), the time has come to say farewell to Smoke Signals Magazine.

Smoke Signals started as a newsletter, printed on an old Laser Jet printer, assembled on an apartment floor, and mailed to 30 of the editor's online smoking fetish friends who were crazy enough to subscribe to a fledgling publication, sight unseen.

Thanks to national publicity from - most importantly - Playboy and the New York Times, it grew into a small but glossy black-and-white magazine.

Support from the fledgling smoking video industry allowed Smoke Signals to secure distribution in Tower Records stores worldwide, and spread its wings into online publication.

Eventually the growth of Smoke Signals Online and other Internet smoking fetish sites and resources, coupled with the slow death of the magazine publishing industry (Smoke Signals almost lived longer than Newsweek!), led to the discontinuation of the print edition.

The Magazine survived for years as a feature at Smoke Signals Online, and eventually as a free publication on its own.

And now, at the age of 21, Smoke Signals Magazine has officially passed away due to lack of interest.

However, we mentioned good news.

We're pleased to report that Smoke Signals Magazine is survived by its family: Smoke Signals Online, SmokingFetishVideo.com, Smoking Flicks, and the Smoking Clip Store.

We can't predict how long some or all of those ventures will remain; as we'll briefly lament for one last time, the nearly-universal belief that anything that can be found online is "in the public domain" and can be freely posted anywhere on a whim, has led to the death of numerous once-prolific smoking fetish companies. Like most of the survivors, we're barely breaking even with our online operations, and we know that one day, we'll be on the list of the departed.

But at least for now, we'll still be very much around and about, so we're pleased to say that "we're not really leaving." Not the online smoking fetish world, at least.

As for this site, we'll leave it as is so that everything that's been posted here will remain available to anyone who wishes to read it.

One bit of "unfinished business" is the future of perhaps our most valuable resource - and much more importantly, our dear friend - Vesperae. We can't adequately express her importance to Smoke Signals over the years, not just as a columnist, but as a sounding board and muse. We hope to be able to find a way to enable her to keep her unique voice alive in our community, and will pass along word when we come to a decision on the best way to do that.

We want to briefly (and inadequately) thank those who have contributed so much to Smoke Signals Magazine over the years. It's dangerous to start listing people, because some always are inadvertently left out. However, we do want to acknowledge the work of people like longtime writer extraordinaire Freida Theant, unparalleled video editor C.K., our original artist Richard Mayhew, and our first darkside editor, Don Mundt; the contributions, advice and support of our advertisers like Steve of KellyMedia, Ed of CoherentLight, Adam of In Real Life, Trevor of SmokinStyle, Tony of Random Snaps, Jim of JSG Videos, Bob of Bob's Videos, Scott at Specialized, Noemie, Twink, the folks at long-gone companies like Up In Smoke and Cinesmoke; the inspiration provided from community pioneers like Fumarium, Loring, Ron Andrews, Matt Landry - and all the others to whom we now sincerely apologize in advance.

We also want to pass along sincere and eternal thanks to those 30 brave souls who invested their money in a one-year subscription to a non-existent (at first) magazine which was simply one person's bizarre idea - and the thousands of people who've been valued subscribers over the years.

We can't leave without special recognition for our longtime, tireless and valued assistant Glenn. And our sincere thanks to everyone who's been a part of this very special period in our shared lives.

Finally, a personal note.

I want to express a very heartfelt thank you to a longtime stalwart of our community who moved on to the next phase of her life quite some time ago but will never be forgotten. I don't even have words to adequately describe the importance of LadySmoker's encouragement, inspiration and love - not to mention the many, many hours she spent working side-by-side with me on Smoke Signals (from the long nights we spent during the early days, printing and assembling hundreds of copies of Smoke Signals by hand so they could be boxed, enveloped, stamped and taken to the post office - to the New York smoking fetish gathering she organized and oversaw - to the road trip we took in order to meet Ed Luisser). I know you won't see this - but thank you, Laura. You'll never know what it truly meant.

I hope that everyone reading this will someday - in their own realm and in their own way - feel the same joy, pride and feeling of having truly accomplished something important that I was privileged to experience...when the first Smoke Signals subscriptions started arriving...the first time I saw a copy of Smoke Signals on sale in a Tower Records 1500 miles away from home...and most importantly, when hundreds and hundreds of letters and postcards started arriving, day after day after day, after the existence of the smoking fetish and Smoke Signals were revealed in Playboy and the New York Times.

Almost every card and letter carried the same basic message: "I thought I was the only one."

Of course you did. We all did.

And then, all of a sudden, we realized how many of us there really were.

We all became members of a community.

More importantly, many of us felt better about ourselves.

We weren't freaks, or sick, or weird, or perverted. We were just people who happened to have a smoking fetish.

And we were no longer alone.

Thank you, for allowing me to be a small part of this incredible moment in time for all of us.

See you around the web!

Mike

The Guest Who Refuses To Leave

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THE GUEST WHO REFUSES TO LEAVE
SMOKE SIGNALS MAGAZINE - July - August 2015

There's always one.

The person who's the life of the party - the one whose stories delight and entertain all of the other guests.

The hours pass, and the glorious evening slowly nears its end. Groups of guests say their thanks and head off into the night.

Yet one guest remains: the "life of the party," who refuses to reliquish his center-stage position until there's not a soul left to hear his now-tired and repetitive stories.

The hosts endure as long as they can, before firmly ushering the final guest to the door and wishing him a pleasant good-bye.

For 21 years, Smoke Signals Magazine has been honored to be one of those favored guests, welcomed by the members of our community who were happy - at times, even eager - to hear our stories.

And throughout that time, we have resolved not to be the guest who refuses to leave when the time comes.

 

In our last issue, we asked readers whether they still valued the presence of Smoke Signals Magazine in its online form, requesting brief emails with your thoughts.

Over two months - not counting touching emails from several colleagues and friends - we received two emails. (And we greatly appreciate those two people taking the time to write.)

That response spoke volumes, and told us that even if the party isn't quite over, time is short.

 

We fully understand the life cycle of businesses, and the way the internet's development has irrevocably changed the nature - and even the purpose - of the media.

We also fully understand that while Smoke Signals Magazine was a once figurative lifeline to those who could never place a name to their fetish, it's now approaching the status of anachronism.

 

A number of years ago, we promised ourselves that we would never do what others have done: convert their sites into forums which facilitate the posting or sharing of copyrighted material into which producers have poured their money and their lives.

Doing that might make Smoke Signals Magazine more "useful" to a large number of people, increasing our web traffic and most probably our revenue.

However, we were never in the soul-selling business and don't plan to change.

In just the last couple of months, the ubiquitous "sharing" of copyrighted material has claimed two more victims who were pillars of our community for nearly twenty years (CoLight and Specialized). We won't contribute to any further darnage.

 

So, where do things stand?

We quoted Hyman Roth in our last issue - and so far, we don't see a suitcase.

We're taking the summer to consider the future of Smoke Signals Magazine.

We'll continue to welcome reader feedback during that time at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . And we'll let you know the decision in September.

(And this has no bearing on the future of Smoke Signals Online or any of our other web services like Smoking Flicks or the Smoking Clip Store.)

 

We know the food is gone and the bar is running out of liquor. Our question now is simply whether it's the right time to leave, or if there are a few more stories yet to be told.

Enjoy the July-August issue!

Did You Miss Us?

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DID YOU MISS US?
SMOKE SIGNALS MAGAZINE - May - June 2015

We were overburdened with "real life" work at the last publication deadline for Smoke Signals Magazine, so for the first time in more than twenty years, we actually missed publishing an issue. And by the time we actually had time to get the issue together, it was way past deadline - so we decided to just hold the material until the May-June issue was to be published.

Admittedly, it's nowhere as big a deal as it would have been when we were "the only" source for smoking fetish news, publishing thousands of copies of the print magazine back in the 1990s - but we still felt extremely badly to have broken a 20+ year streak.

And we apologize.

However, the two months between the missed deadline and now raised a very important question for us.

Did you miss us?

We expected to receive at least a few inquiries about the missing issue, but not a single person emailed to ask about the missing issue.

We know that people read the Magazine. Obviously we can see the web stats, which show that thousands of people read some or all of our new articles after they're published.

But with so much other free stuff now available (even though much of it is available illegally) on the web, we have to wonder whether Smoke Signals Magazine is actually important to people, or whether they've just got it on their bookmarks list, reading it if it's there and not caring if it's not.

If the latter is truly the case, perhaps we should spend the hours required to publish each month (not to mention the hours that our contributors spend writing their material) at our jobs, or with our families, instead. Admittedly, publishing the print magazine required days and not hours - but it's still a good chunk of time to be spending on a bi-monthly project.

So the purpose of this column is to request readers to take 30 seconds and let us know how you feel.

We know you're out there reading. But is Smoke Signals Magazine (we're talking about this website, not Smoke Signals Online) important enough to you for us to continue publishing? Or should we just say "It was a great 20+ years but the time has come to let it go."

Email us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to let us know your thoughts.

We've always thought of our readers as our partners. We'll think of your emails as a potential suitcase full of money for the purposes of closing this piece - so to borrow the words Of Hyman Roth (The Godfather, Part II): "When I wake, if the money's on the table, I'll know I have a partner. If it isn't, I'll know I don't."

Enjoy the May-June issue!

Anyone Got A Time Machine?

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ANYONE GOT A TIME MACHINE?
SMOKE SIGNALS MAGAZINE - January - February 2015

More than ten years ago, we published a fiction piece (still available at Smoke Signals Online) about a smoking fetishist who built a time machine, so that he could travel back to a period when smoking was not only ubiquitous, but accepted and even encouraged.

It was one of our favorites among the stories we've published over the years; unfortunately the author never submitted the part two that he had promised to write.

If he happens to be reading this - all is forgiven, and this would be a terrific time to revisit that series, in light of the latest smoking statistics released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2013, the U.S. adult smoking rate hit its lowest point since statisticians started tracking the figure in 1965: 17.8%, a drop of more than three percent from 2005. "Current smokers" are also smoking fewer cigarettes each day (well under a pack) and fewer of them report smoking "every day." And the age group which had historically had the highest smoking percentage, 18-24, is now actually smoking less than those aged 25-44, 17% to 22%. Teen smoking rates have hit historic lows as well; for example, fewer than 5% of high school sophomores are now smokers, compared to 18% in the mid-90s. Clearly, the "next generation" of smokers is much smaller than the last. Anyone in the fetish community who had been holding out hope that the smoking rate would at least stabilize has to face reality: what we have to look forward to is a continued slow decline in the number of people who smoke - and a continued decline in sightings and encounters with smokers.

If you're up for road trips, the states which still have about a 25% smoking rate among women are West Virginia (27.1%), Kentucky (24.3%) and Indiana (23.9%), with the midwest the area with the highest smoking percentage overall. Native Americans and Native Alaskans (as a combined) group still have a rate of nearly 33% - the only ethnic group above 22%.

There is one interesting anomaly in the statistics; the smoking rate in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) community is markedly higher than the national average at 33%, compared to 20% among straight adults. We'll be interested to hear Vesperae's thoughts on the possible reasons for that large difference. (Added 1/2: See below for Vesperae's insightful (as always) thoughts on this.)

Our European readers know that the picture in their region - while still bleak - isn't quite as bad as it is in the States. The war on smoking continues in Europe and the overall EU smoking rate has declined sharply, primarily because of a huge drop in the U.K. But the region is still the heaviest smoking in the world (although those rates are skewed by a number of former Soviet republics where the male smoking rate is enormous).

And if you're looking for "good news," the latest available statistics show that the female smoking rate has actually increased over the last decade in Austria by nearly seven percent, while there have been smaller increases in France, the Czech Republic and Lithuania. Americans with the means to take an overseas road trip might think about Austria this year.

Or maybe we can combine our resources and get to work on that time machine?

Enjoy the January-February issue!

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1/2: VESPERAE'S THOUGHTS ON THE LGBT STATISTICS CITED ABOVE:

I tend to take all smoking rate reports with a grain of salt anymore, because I have this strong suspicion that the numbers are significantly under-reported by survey respondents. Simply put, I have a hunch that closet smoking is way up.

As for the elevated rates of smoking in the LGBT Community (which matches my personal experience completely), from least to most important, I think that each of these factors play a role:

Higher rate of cigarette advertising in LGBT publications and establishments.

The look of various cigarettes (and cigars) make "gendered" statements about the identity of the smoker, helping to identify how butch or femme the smoker is.

Lower rates of parenting, which translates into lower concerns over second-hand smoke in the living environment, as well as lower concerns over longevity as it relates to taking care of and supporting children. Lower rates of parenting also translates into higher disposable/discretionary income.

Stigma/disenfranchisement leading to stress and higher rates of substance abuse and sexual addiction, with which smoking frequently coincides.

Stigma/disenfranchisement brands LGBT kids as "bad" from a young age. And for many, their escape from the shame and confusion that comes with this happens when they learn to own that feeling of being "bad" inside, and in the way that they project their ownership of that feeling to others. And what better way to project your "badness" than to light up for all the world to see? *Especially* in this day and age.

My $0.02 ;)

- Vesperae

Take The Month Off!

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TAKE THE MONTH OFF!
SMOKE SIGNALS MAGAZINE - November - December 2014

It's not often that we don't have much to say.

This is one of those times.

Quite honestly, we've been so busy with personal matters this month, that we've given precious little thought to the state of our community, or even had many thoughts about women smoking.

So rather than try to fill up this space with rambling prose that doesn't add much to anyone's day, we're giving you a break from our rants about video sharing, our dire predictions about the financial plight of our video producers (unfortunately coming true), or our walks down memory lane to the days where just about everyone smoked, everywhere.

Please use the extra time wisely. (Just kidding, of course!)

We'll get back on our soapbox next time around.

And enjoy the November-December issue!

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