Quitting Smoking – Not on a Lighthouse!

Quitting Smoking – Not on a Lighthouse!

I was a smoker when I arrived on my first lighthouse at Pulteney Point in December 1969. I was twenty-two (22) years old, married, with no children when I arrived.

My wife, Karen, and I had never had to order supplies for a month. Our first order was loaded with chocolate bars and stuff we figured we would not be able to do without. Tobacco, as I rolled my own, was not a problem – two cans of Player’s tobacco should do for a month. 

When you live in the city with stores right at hand, you never consider how much you use in a month. It is used until it runs out and you buy more. Well, the tobacco supply was greatly underestimated. I ran out.

Next day I asked the senior lightkeeper, Walt Tansky, if I could borrow the station boat and run into the town of Sointula about 8 kms away. Walt said he had a better idea and invited me into his house. He headed for the basement and came back with a can of Player’s tobacco. IT was c-o-l-d!

Walt explained that he had quit smoking years ago and that a personal motive to quit was to keep a can of tobacco on hand in the freezer. It became a cushion against his addiction.

“But”, I said, “you quit years ago. This tobacco is that old?”

“No”, he siad, “It has been replaced many times.”


“Yes”, everytime a keeper runs out, he may borrow this can and replace it at the first available chance. It has been replaced many times – by fishermen, pilots, keepers, and campers.”

Well, it worked for me. I replaced it next tender, and made sure I had enough next month. I also used to keep my reserve of tobacco for the month in the supplied house freezer as it kept it fresher.

When I reached the age of forty-five (45) I awoke most mornings with a raspy hoarse rattle in my lungs and throat, and that summer, while on vacation I decided to quit.

no tobacco!

As most of you smokers know quitting is easy. It’s the staying quit that is the hardest. Well I quit before I went back on station, but remembering Walt’s wisdom, I purchased my last ever can of tobacco and had it placed in the Freezer order.

Arriving back on station I munched on the Scotch mints that I then used to curb my nicotine hunger. The can of tobacco remained in the freezer. Well, it travelled quite a bit. The first can went to Boat Bluff lighthouse on a chopper trip and was returned the next trip.

We often had work crews on station whom we roomed and boarded for days or weeks, depending on the station project.

Often the crews miscalculated how much tobacco they needed, or a big storm hit just as they were to go home, and their hoarded tobacco stash ran out. They were frantic. Many times I saw smokers rush up to a landing helicopter to see if they had spare smokes. One time, when expecting the helicopter, they telephoned in and told the pilot to purchase just ONE pack to tide them over until they got home. The could not smoke on the helicopter, but at least they could have one before takeoff and on refuelling stops!


So, my stash of one can of Player’s tobacco came in real handy for these desperate smokers. Some smoked tailor-mades and had to learn hand rolling. Most adapted out of emergency, and learned to roll pretty well. Papers were also the extra bit of material which was on hand as well.

The problem is, one can of tobacco is not enough for a heavy smoker for one month between grocery orders. I had many a keeper in my twenty-five (25) years on McInnes Island who tried to quit while on station. After my reserve tin ran out you have never seen such desperate people roaming the island looking for cigarette butts to re-roll as one complete cigarette. Funny, but I remember doing it too!

When I packed up to leave the station I discovered my one lonely can of tobacco in the freezer. No one smoked on the station, so I wrote  a note on it and left it in the freezer for the next keeper who arrived. Maybe it might help them or another keeper. 


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Retired (2001) British Columbia lighthouse keeper after 32 years on the lights.

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