Last week I found a Camel cigarette packet in a box which once contained cigars. I bought the box in 1981 in Singapore on the way to London. The cigars were from the Philippines and long gone. The cigarette packet was of uncertain vintage, but very likely also came from the 1980s.

It’s strange to think of those times when so many people smoked cigarettes. My parents both smoked Camel cigarettes, an unfiltered, strong cigarette, incredibly popular in its day. Before they smoked Camel they smoked Temple Bar. My mother worked for Philip Morris when she was a young woman in Melbourne in her 20s after WW2. Smoking the house brand was quite the thing to do.

According to Wikipedia, Philip Morris is still going strong. The current operations is located in Lausanne, Switzerland. The company apparently still owns seven of the top 15 tobacco brands in the world. In 2015 it sold 850 billion cigarettes. Any updates, people 

My mother had a stroke last week, as a result of the damage past smoking had on the small blood vessels in her brain. She stopped smoking, mostly, after about 1989. Last week, some of those damaged blood vessels just shut down. She rang me at 8am after trying to talk to her cat but found she couldn’t pronounce the words properly. Her voice was slurred. In the mirror, she saw the left side of her face was slack, and her mouth was wonky. I called an ambulance.

Temple Bar is not in Wikipedia as a cigarette. I might have imagined the cartons of cigarettes that were bought and lodged in the walk-in wardrobe in my parents’ room in Taringa, a suburb of Brisbane, but I didn’t. They were real. I know they were real because the pictures on the internet are the ones I remember seeing in the 1960s on the coffee table still there under the standard lamp beside a bookcase. I found the image here:

Why aren’t they in Wikipedia? I don’t know. If I wanted to find out about Temple Bar cigarettes, I would Google them. If Wikipedia had a page about them it would rank high in the search results, because Wikipedia is a trusted source. Information on Wikipedia can be wrong, but it doesn’t stay wrong for long. There are Wikipedians out there who get notified of articles and changes to articles and check them. They don’t like wrong information. They like to see the evidence. They like facts. They are sometimes a bit too keen on shooting down articles because they lack facts, references and hard evidence. I wondered innocently if they could just as well use their energy to search out and supply the facts themselves rather than binning or flagging an article they deem unworthy.

But there was no Wikipedia page on Temple Bar. Like a warning on a Wikipedia page, this made me think there was a warning in my brain, something like: “Your memory has multiple issues. It is possible Temple Bar London should be merged with Temple Bar Dublin. This fact needs further references for verification.”

It is very likely someone out there knows the facts about Temple Bar cigarettes. They could supply this information to Wikipedia and it would be gladly received because it is notable, ideal for inclusion in an encyclopedia, and  presently, lost to the history of the world.

Why don’t they supply this information to Wikipedia, these knowledgeable souls?

Because they don’t realise they can. While Wikipedia is a daily “go to” source for information “consumers” those same people don’t usually think they could be information providers. 

So much for Temple Bar and the consumer versus the contributor culture. What about Camel cigarettes? I know my school friends scorned them, saying they tasted like camel dung. They did taste a bit strange, because of the Turkish tobacco. 

Camel does have a Wikipedia page and when I visited it, I came with a couple of warnings, a) that Camel Crush [could] be merged into this article and b) the article needed additional citations for verification. 

I evaluated these and decided to remove the warnings because

  1. Camel Crush is its own page and can stay that way; and
  2. the need for additional citations are not so dire as to require a big scary warning at the top of the page.

After doing this I was free to read the page unencumbered by what one might call “excessive gatekeeper zeal”.

In doing so I learned that Camel cigarettes were something of a marketing marvel.

“In 1913, R.J. Reynolds innovated the packaged cigarette. Prior cigarette smokers rolled their own, which tended to obscure the potential for a national market for a pre-packaged product. Reynolds worked to develop a more appealing flavor, creating the Camel cigarette, so named because it used Turkish tobacco in imitation of then-fashionable Egyptian cigarettes. Reynolds priced them below competitors and within a year, he had sold 425 million packs.”

“Camel cigarettes used an advertisingcampaign of “teasers” simply stating “the Camels are coming.” This marketing style was a prototype for subsequent attempts to sway public opinion into backing the United States’ entry into World War I, and later World War II.”

Isn’t it amazing what you can learn from Wikipedia. 

My mother spent a few days in hospital leaning there are types of strokes which occur because of damage from smoking decades before. I took her home after she was thoroughly and expertly checked out. I warned her she would feel lost and bewildered, but this would pass. 

It hasn’t yet.