Is a White Lighter Really Bad Luck?

Demeter Delune

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White LighterWikimedia Commons

If you've ever smoked, or been around people who did, it's likely you've heard that white lighters are unlucky. More specifically, white BIC lighters. There are myriad stories that supposedly explain this bad luck. None of which can be confirmed.

There are a number of superstitions around smoking. People turn over a cigarette in each pack and smoke it last, considering it lucky. Some say it's bad luck to light more than three smokes from a single match. And while these are rather silly in their own right, the myth of the unlucky white lighter takes the cake.

Even today, you'll find people who will not only refuse to purchase a white lighter, they'll also refuse to use one. Others go so far as to leave the room when one is in use. The most pervasive myth surrounding this phenomenon stems from the 27 Club, another urban legend. The "club" features musicians who died at the age of 27, such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, and Jim Morrison, among its more famous members. What do musicians who died young have to do with white lighters? The urban legend states, they all died with a white BIC in their pocket or in the room.

The biggest knock on this theory is that the white disposable BIC lighter simply didn’t exist when Hendrix, Morrison, or Joplin died. The first disposable BIC lighter wasn’t produced until 1973, more than a year after Morrison’s 3 July 1971 death, and Hendrix and Joplin had both passed away even earlier, in 1970. While it simply isn’t possible for Morrison, Hendrix, or Joplin to have been in possession of a white BIC lighter at the time of their deaths, they could have been carrying some other brand of disposable lighter, such as the Cricket.

Another myth about why white lighters are bad luck is also steeped in misinformation. Stoners use their lighter to pack bowls, which leaves an ash and resin residue on the bottom. The tale goes, BIC only produced black and white lighters initially, and white lighters would show the residue much clearer. While this seemingly makes sense, BIC produced multiple colors from the start, and while the entire lighter would show the ash and residue more clearly if it's white, the bottom of every BIC lighter is white, regardless of its body color.

Whether there's truth to the folklore or not doesn't seem to matter. For those who believe it, even if they don't know the false stories behind it, its simply true. Why white? Well, why not.

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