I need to learn how to smoke for a play
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RobynRose's avatar
By RobynRose   |   Watch
6 67 21K (1 Today)
Published: June 21, 2014
So I'm doing a small scene in my acting class, and I have to smoke.

aaaand being the good D.A.R.E. kid that I am, I've never gone anywhere near cigarettes.
Yay for fumbling my cig around and then dropping it on my foot.
Anyone know of any tutorials for how to smoke?
I'm interested in the mannerisms and habbits of smokers.
So that it looks like you've been doing it for a long time.

What sort of differences in behaviours are there? Nervous smoking to calm down vs having a relaxing smoke after dinner.
Do right-handed people generally smoke with their dominant hand? How long do you go between inhales?

DON'T DO DRUGS, KIDS!

EDIT: also my practice cigarette for right now is just a tightly rolled up piece of paper taped together.

UPDATE: My scene went over just fine! I used a rolled up piece of paper for my "cigarette".

I practiced taking it habitually out of my pocket and fake-lighting it. And getting comfortable fiddling something around in my hand and my mouth with my lines. I also practiced feeling relaxed and satisfied after taking the first drag. My acting teacher said I did really well playing attention to small details. They're what really make a scene.

Thanks for all your help and replies, I found them all very useful!
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Comments (66)
rottenstarboy's avatar
rottenstarboyEdited |Student General Artist
I don't know if this is too late, but I've been a smoker for a long while and am pretty practiced in 'exaggerated type behaviors' (I'm also genderqueer, so I don't fall under masculine OR feminine traits, meaning anyone could pick up my habits or motions without it looking forced/gender-specific), so if you like, I could certainly throw together a video tutorial on basic, smoking stereotypes and motions.

EDIT: woop, jumped the gun. Oh well, offer is still on the table (for anyone), if it would ever be handy. ^^;
Reply  ·  
Haylau's avatar
Haylau|Hobbyist Digital Artist
They have these electric cigarettes that have flavor to them, I usually see them at gas stations. They're supposed to be for people who want to quit, and they created a vapor smoke like real cigarettes do :3 
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Static-Foil's avatar
Static-Foil|Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I'm so happy to know you didn't sacrifice your morals for this scene. the small attention to details really is what makes it count and you've done wonderfully.

You are ttruly an actress. To do something against wihout doing it while maintaining the essence . . . . . Brilliant <3
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RobynRose's avatar
Well, they also make really convincing props nowadays. Theatrical props are a whole world of their own.
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81Scorp's avatar
Glad to hear it went well. :) :hug:
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BaneNascent's avatar
BaneNascent|Professional General Artist
My grandma smoked for years but she wasn't the kind of smoker that did tricks with the smoke like rings etc. She was more of a social smoker and it carried over into her private life. When she did smoke she never inhaled it deeply so she was called the non smoker, smoker. The behavior became apart of a memory of social activity more then the desire to smoke it was what it used to represent. 

 I think the mentality of the smoker depends on why they smoke, some people get hooked and smoke for the sake of it. Other smokers I've talked to had a form of anxiety and had to do something with their hands or keep busy even when standing still. Chemicals are addicting and many did it for a sense of relief, I guess for the sake of acting the cig itself isn't as important as the mood and purpose around it. If the person needs a cig to calm down or if it's just a representation of rebellion.
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ShimizudaniOki's avatar
Did you know they make tobacco/nicotine free cigarettes for acting??
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RobynRose's avatar
They do! Sometimes they're even filled with things like dried lettuce.
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Jarsalia's avatar
Jarsalia|Hobbyist Digital Artist
you can´t say that there is the typical behaviour of a smoker. the moment you smoke is important. how long have the smoker don´t have a cigarette? is he alone or chatting while smoking? is it because of the lack of nicotine? then he is shurely smoking faster. gets nervous if the lighter don´t work. he´s inhaling deeper and holding the smoke longer.
when it´s because of the social aspect (cigaretts in breaks at work, when going out with friends, after dinner, in the moring to the coffee etc.) then he is holding the cigarette and sometimes take a long inhale, but with bigger breaks. talking, drinking between. sometimes the cigarette is burning dow while talking. sometimes you forget it a the ashtray.
but much people light one after the other.
most people hold the cigarette between middlefinger and pointer, the upper fingerparts, the cigarette at the end of the filter and mostly with the main hand. only if you need the main hand for more important things like a glas or umbrella or something like that, you take the other hand. its no problem holding it the other hand, but feels a bit unomfortable an unnatural. but in the case both hands are needed, it´s no problem using the main hand for other things.

i hope i could help a bit. if you got concrete questions, ask.:)
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Erykkr's avatar
Erykkr|Professional
Have you considered smoking a few to get a feel for it?
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RobynRose's avatar
Heh, not an option, unfortunately. I don't have the money or desire. :P
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takkless's avatar
takkless|Professional Traditional Artist
I best tip I can give that I note as a mistake in tv and movies, is do not hold the cigarette with your fingers while lighting it. A smoker has enough control with their lips to put that tip wherever in the flame they need or want. There's no need to steady it with your other hand while striking the lighter with the other. If anything, that second hand should be cupping around the lighter to keep away any errant breezes that may extinguish it.

That first drag off the light cigarette is the one you've been looking for. That's the one to savor. It's the one that feeds that craving that made you pull the cigarette out in the first place. All others are just maintaining. That fist  one is the one you hold in just a little bit longer...

Take a drag when you feel the need, but not so often that you don't get a breath of fresh air between. Smokers don't wanna waste the cigarette, but they like to actually breathe too.

I used to play with the tip occasionally. Rolling it against the inside of the ashtray to sharpen the ash on the end. Tap it straight down then to blunt it again. Then take a drag.

Also, conversation and drinking leads to smoking more. I was a pack a day smoker back when I was smoking. But I could easily jump that to two in a day if I was sitting around chatting with friends, especially if there was drink involved. Anything that would sooth my throat as I was smoking.
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keixell's avatar
As a former smoker, I can tell you that I am very glad that you are faking it, cause smoking is nasty and gross and smelly and it was a pain in the rear to quit, and BLEEEAACCCHHHH.

That being said, the mannerisms vary from person to person, character to character. Is your character jaded? Posh? Girly? Tough? Why is she smoking in the first place? Answer these questions (and dozens more) first, to give yourself as much information about the character as you can. Do this before you even approach her mannerisms, because once you know a lot about her, her mannerisms will come more naturally.

The time frame of the story, when it takes place, is important as well. If the story is set in the 1920s or 30s, studying old film noirs is a good idea, but if the play is set in the 1970s, study films from that era. If the play is set in the 1990s, watch films from that era, and so on. There is a distinct difference.

And finally, once you have done all your homework, and studied and so on and know what your character's mannerisms are: do them, *repeatedly.* Smokers are completely unconscious of all those little ticks and tremors. They don't realize they are twirling the cigarette, or flicking it, or even bringing it to their mouth. They don't think about how they pack the box or pull out the smoke, they don't generally even look at it, not even when they light it. Some people pack, open, remove and light all in one fluid motion with one hand. Some people use both.

The only kind of smoker (that I know of, or ever had experiences with) that looked at their cigarette, *really* looked, as if contemplating its very existence, was a smoker that still felt surreptitiously guilty about the act of smoking (or was considering quitting and was in the process of developing shame for the act). People who have been smoking for a *very* long time (and these people tend to be pretty cynical about life and the world in general, not sure why it correlates) exhale through their nose. Which is a wholly unpleasant experience unless you have been smoking for a long, *long* time.

I really hope all this helps!
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PrimaGaren's avatar
PrimaGaren|Hobbyist Traditional Artist
whatever you do NOT hold it with 3 fingers, (2 on top, one on bottom) method. its a cigarette not a blunt. cigg smokers only use 2 fingers ever to hold one and thumb to tap with. Tordaki is right tho, all the older movies show the correct way to "smoke". best way to learn is to watch (downwind) of actual smokers. when i smoked it was always with it in my left hand (im dom-left), never felt correct in the right. most long time smokers can hold a cigg and perform all other dominate hand functions without ever letting it go or using the mouth hold option. practice keeping your hand relaxed so it falls in a natural curled position, the filter end should never be more than a breath away from the thumb for quick ash flicking when at rest. 
hope this helps, and break a leg!
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Tordaki's avatar
Tordaki|Student Photographer
Try any old movie from the 50s
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Michael-Ellis's avatar
Michael-EllisEdited |Professional Traditional Artist
If you have to use a real cigarette:

With the cigarette away from your face, inhale through your nose and hold your breath. Put the cigarette in your mouth, suck in WITH THE MOUTH ONLY (like you're trying to suck a thick milkshake through a straw). Hold the smoke in your mouth and fully exhale the breath you've been holding. The effect should look like you're breathing the smoke out but it never made it to your lungs.

As for the habits and behaviors, I'd say just do some observations of smokers in real life. From a distance all sneaky-like.
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ninjassinwolf's avatar
ninjassinwolfEdited |Student General Artist
you could always use the E cigarettes. they look like smoke and all that but dont smell awful. and less dangerous. i believe you can buy them at walmart now, or even in gas stations. i have no idea what a good brand is. however i dont think that they make your mouth as dry so i have heard from my smoker friend. *shrugs* I know what you mean about 'not knowing how to smoke' XD everyone has different habits, some put it on the tip of their thumb and forefinger and smoke like they are eating a sucker, others put it in between their forefinger and middle finger and act like they are blowing a kiss to people. some just hang it from their mouth and do their work. others actually just light it and put it in the ash tray out of habit. (my gma does that.... shes old and sometimes i dont think she remembers lighting one. or as i said she just does it out of habit. i dont know.) 

All of it depends on how you smoke, if you are a chain smoker, probably ever 10 mins. if you are a light smoker, maybe once or twice a day. and probably dominant hand will usually use it, however with everything in life im sure the other hand will use it some times to depending if the dominant hand is busy or not. If its a nervous smoke you are probably all hyped up and keep puffing on it, if you are relaxing then you are just chill  and puffing it every so often like you dont have a care in the world. 

i know i seem to know a lot about all of it, i dont smoke, but i have been around a LOT of people who have. and im sure there are even MORE habits out there then just what i have said.
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cptstarlight's avatar
cptstarlight|Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVnrEh… Also, here's some music to put you in the right attitude for the pent-up, nervous, or unsatisfied smoker.
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cptstarlight's avatar
cptstarlightEdited |Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
I've been a pipe-smoker (tobacco, I assure you) for a few years now, and occasionally dabble in cigars and specialty cigarettes. I find that it all comes down to how you hold it and how you breathe. Nervous people tend to take quicker, shorter puffs and breaths, and they raise and lower the cigarette to and from their mouths a lot. People who do it casually just let it sit in either their mouth or their hand, and tend to take it slow. I find that when people are finally having that smoke they've been craving all day, they take it long and slow, and inhale and exhale deeply, especially with eyes closed or lowered.
Also, here's a pretty cool trick from the good old days of film noir- The more visible smoke there is in a scene, the more emotion, conflict, or thought is going in inside that character. There's not much reason for this, but it's been adopted by cinema pretty completely.
As for the cigarettes themselves, there is such a thing as stage cigarettes that blow dust out instead of smoke, and you don't inhale a thing. Completely safe, very convincing, and no odor!
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MightBeWrong's avatar
MightBeWrongEdited |Hobbyist Digital Artist
Christ, so many of the people here sound like sixth graders straight out of health class. Yeah, it's a shitty habit to pick up but a few cigarettes will not make you into an addict. I smoke a couple a month when I go out and I've never felt a 'craving' or felt any need to smoke otherwise. You guys sound like fucking idiots.

As for how to make it look natural, just watch people in movies, I'd say. A real smoker's going to treat it like a functional thing, not a showy thing, so don't overthink what you're doing, don't look at it constantly, don't hold it stiffly, flick the end to shake the ash off once in a while, etc.
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ale-xander's avatar
ale-xander|Professional Digital Artist
zippystumps definitely has the best mindset in this whole thread. Getting addicted to cigarettes will only work if you are looking for an outlet, which you aren't. I've smoked a few times and have felt no need to do it on a more permanent basis.

Grab an ecig, they are cheap, and have at a few experiments on how to hold and smoke it. Most people don't pull the smoke down into their lungs, as it burns rather uncomfortably. Instead, they do a sort of pumping motion to allow it to enter into their mouth and just sit around for a little, releasing around half into their lungs before expelling the rest.

The best way to find out is to find a circle of friends who smoke, or just make a couple by opening up conversation in an area where smokers congregate. Secondhand smoke won't kill you from just a few trials and there is so little nicotine in ecigs, the possibility of you becoming addicted is nil. 

Marijuana is where you would want as much of the smoke to enter your lungs as possible. The action of puffing on a normal cigarette is, generally, enough to take the edge off.

p.s. People who smoke nervously look very much like any other smoker. You only see the twitches if they are trying to do it quickly or its cold as fuck outside and they are trying to get back in before they freeze something off.
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Rolytic's avatar
Rolytic|Hobbyist Digital Artist
Use an e-cigarette with no nicotine and a red LED?
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lycheex3's avatar
lycheex3|Hobbyist Artist
If it helps you, these are different types of holding cigarettes and what it could propably say about the person holding it. :)

cigarettes-for-beginners.wdfil…
cigarettes-for-beginners.wdfil…
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