Bear Shit – A Cigarette for the Stout of Heart


“Made from Genuine and Unadulterated Bear Shit” – So reads the side of this cigarette pack label. I sincerely hope this is not a case of truth in advertising. The other side of the label reads “The cigarette that you always wanted to smoke but were afraid to try.” Even after 5 seasons working at a nature center, and having handled quite a bit of excrement – we called it “scat” or, more politely, fertilizer – I would not want the remnants of a bear’s digestive track anywhere near my mouth.

If the idea of flaming poo near your mouth isn’t enticing, the design on the pack is cute as a button (much like the “Cookie Jar” brand, which features a teddy bear). A panda bear is sitting in a patch of bamboo shoots and smoking his favorite brand. From the smile on his face and the sparkle in his eyes, the taste must be wonderful. Then again, he could just be taking a shit.

Chapultepec Zoo Panda

This is part of a series of packs my father picked up in the late 1970s in Tijuana, Mexico. (Check out the “Bull Shit” Cigarette label!) Why, you ask, is there a panda bear on a Mexican cigarette pack? Great question! In 1975, the Chapultepec Zoo received its first pair of pandas – Pepe and Ying Ying – as a gift from the People’s Republic of China, and they proceeded to have Latino panda cubs. That’s a lot of manure for producing Bear Shit cigarettes.

(Read: April 29, 2013 – “Famous Giant Panda Dies in Mexico City Zoo”)

Image Credit – By Hmaglione10 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

bear-shit03Like the other packs in this series, the Bear Shit label features a friendly description on the reverse. The text praises the pleasant flavor and declares, in English that would make my 4th-grade teacher Mrs. Zisow cringe, “You can’t find this kind of cigarettes in eny other part of the world. If you smock this cigarettes you are going to feel like an other man.” This is a clear example of a Mexican company catering to the American tourist crowd vacationing in Tijuana and elsewhere around the country.

Do you love the image of a cuddly bear smoking? Check out my fan-fiction story, “In Which Winnie the Pooh Picks up a Smoking Habit and his Friends Plan an Intervention.”Winnie the Pooh and Piglet Take a Cigarette Break

Truth in Advertising – An Unreasonable Demand?

Pet peeve of the day: inaccurate coupon advertising. When I find a “Buy 1 Get 1 Free” coupon for my favorite jar of marinara sauce, I get super excited, because I know I can afford to serve myself another bowl of ravioli this week. That is, until I get to the store and realize that they simply doubled the price over what I paid last week.

I also get annoyed by those “Buy 1, Get 1 of Equal or Lesser Value Free” coupons. They always write that last part in tiny print, which totally messes up my budget: I get to the checkout line thinking I’m making out like a bandit by buying an 8-ounce jar of marinara sauce and getting the 64-ounce jar free (I really like marinara sauce), only to find out later that the cashier charged me for the 64 ounces and gave me a whopping 8 ounces free.

While writing this, my blood is boiling over a couple of packs from Philip Morris in the late 1980s. In order to promote the “New Marlboro Menthol” packs, the company distributed complimentary packs (i.e., “freebies!”) inside a “Buy 1 Get 1 Free” coupon wrapper.

New Marlboro Menthol Coupon

This sounds great, right? Your hotel gives you a free pack of six cigarettes to get you hooked on the new-fashioned cancer sticks (PSA: Collecting is great, but smoking kills), then you tear off the coupon flap and get two more packs for the price of one.

But I’m a nit-picky, uptight stickler for mathematical accuracy. (This is why I became a teacher – to torture students with math problems that are worded too vaguely.) You see, it’s not actually “But 1, get 1 free.” It’s “take 1, get hooked, spend too much for a 2nd and we’ll give you a 3rd at no extra cost because we already skinned you alive and we know you’re too addicted to walk away now.”

The pack should read, “Buy 1, Get Your 3rd Pack Free!” but only annoying teachers like myself will figure that one out and say, “I appreciate their honesty and I want to kill myself with their cigarettes, all while profiting them tremendously.”

New Marlboro Menthol Coupon

New Marlboro Menthol Coupon

If you’ve read this far, you are probably as stubborn as I am, so you’ll appreciate a little more mathematical nit-picking. There are only 6 cigarettes in the complimentary packs with the coupons on them, while most packs that you buy have 20 cigarettes. In other words, the coupon is really for 46 cigarettes at the price of 20, which is closer to two-and-a-third packs for the price of one. Make up your minds, Marlboro!

Hmm, I wonder, could I take one of these coupons to the store, buy a 20-pack and get a 25-pack free? That just boosted my cigarette efficiency to 51 cigarettes for the price of 20! Too bad I don’t smoke.

Also, the coupons expired August 31, 1988.

Bull Shit! Good Till the Last Puff

In my summer camp, one of our favorite break activities was a card game called “Bull Shit!” It was all about calling your opponents’ bluffs, and screaming “Bull Shit!” as often as possible. Hmm, I wonder why the counselors didn’t like us…

“Bull Shit!” is one of those inventions of American slang that makes our language so endearing. Allegedly, Leonid Tarassuk, former curator at the Hermitage in Leningrad and noted jokester, fell in love with this phrase when he was fighting against Soviet anti-Semitism and applying to leave the country. It became his favorite slogan, according to Soviet Jewry activist Fabian Kolker, and he stamped it on every visa request the government denied. At some point, he even wore a belt with “Bullshit” engraved on the buckle.

But this pack of cigarettes takes the cake for Bull Shit ingenuity. The label features a bull, you guessed it, fertilizing the field with a patty of his excrement. And he looks so happy, with a smile that reminds me of that look my friend’s baby makes while making a “deposit” in his diaper. This is genius advertising, because the first thing a cigarette smoker wants to be reminded of is that his tobacco was fertilized with poop.

My grandfather got a kick out of these cigarettes and used to show them off. He had a whole series of cigarette packs – including horse shit, rabbit shit, cangaroo [sic] shit, chicken shit, donky [sic] shit, and bear shit – all produced by a tobacco manufacturer in Tijuana. They were gifts from my father and a friend of the family. Yeah, they were real shitty gift-givers.

For fun, check out the text on the back of this pack in the picture below. Apparently, these were real tobacco cigarettes (as indicated by the Mexican tobacco stamp. But the manufacturer had a blast, writing “We ar[sic] happy with Our Cigarettes Shit” and “Bull Shit Cigarettes… You really taste good!…” on the side of the label. These are great gag cigarettes to show your friends, but as the pack warns, you probably wouldn’t want to give them to a young cow in love.

Turkish Floating Exhibition

Turkish Floating Exhibition

Something about a cruise is just exciting. In Baltimore, we love adventures on the Chesapeake Bay, whether we’re spending a day as a pirate with Urban Pirates, watching the cannons fired off the USS Constellation, or taking my students crabbing on the Lady Maryland. So I imagine that if a ship with exotic music and art from Turkey showed up in the harbor, a lot of Baltimoreans would check it out.

In the 19th and early 20th century, if you wanted to learn about cultures and technological advances around the world, you could go to a World’s Fair, where countries would host booths and pavilions featuring everything from belly dancers to the Ferris Wheel. Turkey took the idea further and, in 1926, developed a “Floating Exhibition” to showcase Turkey’s modern culture and business at port cities around Europe.

The Baltimore Sun reported on July 25th that, “Beautiful Turkish women gowned in Paris modes and emancipated from the veils of former years added a feminine touch to a reception held on the Kara-Deniz at Havre during the stay of a floating exhibition of Turkish goods and products, the first of its kind ever seen in European waters.”

In 1954, the Turkish government launched a new display with the SS Tarsus. The ship (originally the SS Exochorda) had previously operated in the Caribbean as an export liner. During WWII, the US Navy purchased it (renaming it the USS Harry Lee), using it in both the Caribbean and Pacific theaters. (Read the full history of the ship here.) By 1954, Turkey was still trying to secure its place in an emerging Cold War world, and it took the ship for a new Floating Exhibition, showcasing Turkey’s immense value and potential. Just six years later, a freak three-ship collision destroyed the Tarsus.

Many American tobacco companies packed their cigarettes with “Turkish” tobacco, which is a strand of the tobacco crop species. The Floating Exhibition featured genuine Turkish-made cigarettes. I’m curious if they taste different… but I’m not curious enough to light up a 60-year-old cigarette!

Turkish Floating Exhibition (Turkish)

I haven’t figured out what influenced the artwork on this pack, but it’s quite lovely, even a bit psychedelic if you stare at it for too long: a flower with a red center surrounded by white petals and surrounding blue petals.

The pack is for sale at my store:

The Turkish Floating Exhibition set sail most recently in 2011. But I’m afraid the SS Tarsus didn’t take part. Just six years after the 1954 exhibit, it was destroyed in a freak three-ship collision.


P.S. Ships make great classrooms. Take your children (or, in my case, students) out on the water, raise a sail, inspect the water, catch some seafood. If you come to Baltimore, check out the Living Classroom’s Lady Maryland.