Why do smokers fear white lighters?
For decades, superstitious pot lovers have stayed far away from the white lighter.
The smoker’s universe has more questions than answers. The human brain seems designed to react to cannabis though we only have the foggiest ideas as to why. Great reverence is given to the number 420 without any real explanation. (People’s theories range from Bob Marley’s birthday (which is in February, not April, for the record) to the fact that it’s just a good time to converge after school.) One of the more specific stoner conspiracies has less to do with the pot and more to do with the blaze. Lots of smokers believe that it is a bad omen to use an unmarked, white lighter. Why the heck is that?
I first encountered the superstition from a former roommate who was convinced that using an ‘unmarked’ white lighter was bad vibes. If your lighter came with a decorative skin, that was fine, but this roommate would chastise me for fidgeting and peeling the art off, revealing the cursed white lighter underneath. I’m not traditionally the superstitious type, but I am the type who feels crapped on enough without having to tempt the all mighty fate. Even if I caught on to the superstition late, the tale has been circulating for a while—and many believe it is related to another choice stoner conspiracy: the 27 club.
Embodying the ‘live fast, die young’ curse of stardom, the 27 club is the belief that tortured, famous artists have a kind of predestined fate to die at 27 years old. It most famously applies to Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Jim Morrison and Basquiat. In the last two months, rapper Fredo Santana and K-pop star Kim Jong-hyun both passed away, unfortunately, adding themselves to the club.
The white lighter omen ties into the 27 club because some say that its members had white lighters on their persons when they died. This hearsay doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny, however. Hendrix and Joplin died in 1970, Morrison in 71. The disposable Bic lighter wasn’t introduced until 1973. A Bic lighter was discovered in Cobain’s pants, as viewable in the crime scene photography, but it appears to be a light pink one.
A less supernatural origin to the lighter theory is that stoners used to steer clear of white ones because bits of weed residue would give them away to authorities. As pedestrian as this theory is, even it feels a little iffy. Bic also offered yellow lighters early on, and it’s hard to imagine any resin stains that would gunk up a white lighter but remain invisible on a marginally less bright one.
It’s also possible that everyone’s just been fed misinformation for decades and there isn’t any cohesive reason why the white lighter is so feared. I mean you gotta admit, we humans do a whole lotta things that don’t make sense.