Different Styles of Cigarette Lighters

by Lee Morgan

Smokers probably don’t think too much about their lighters for the most part. If it lights up their cigarette, it’s probably good enough. There are some exceptions to that rule. Among the endless list of things that people collect are cigarette lighters, but generally one is as good as another in the eye of most people. But there is actually a lot of difference from one style of cigarette lighter to the next. These essential smoker’s tools come in a variety of types that get the job done in very different ways.

Classic Zippo

Perhaps the best-known cigarette lighter in the classic Zippo lighter. These lighters are designed with a “chimney” around the flame that makes it wind-proof. They are also enclosed in a metal sleeve and include a hinged metal cap that snuffs out the flame after the striking wheel meets the flint and lights the fuel-soaked wick. The history of the Zippo dates back to the early 1930s when Zippo inventor George Blaisdell saw a friend at a country club fidgeting with a clumsily designed Austrian lighter. He took the basic wick and chimney design and made it into an easier to use enclosed lighter that became the first Zippo. There’s not much story behind the name Zippo, other than the fact that Blaisdell liked the sound of it. The Zippo lighter has a lifetime guarantee and is a popular item for smokers and collectors. According to the Zippo website, around four million people collect Zippo lighters in the United States alone.

Butane Torch

The butane torch is a type of cigarette lighter that uses piezoelectricity and butane fuel instead of the flint and wheel of more traditional lighters. Piezoelectricity works by pressing down an ignition button that causes a spring-loaded hammer to strike quartz, forming a small spark. A jet of butane ignites, producing a well-defined flame that is nearly impossible to extinguish without releasing the button. The butane torch will stay lit in high winds or even in the rain. These types of lighters are also very popular among cigar smokers because of the ease of lighting the cigar with this type of flame.

Disposables

A disposable lighter is usually relatively inexpensive, made of plastic and is filled with a one-time-use fuel. Unlike other types of lighters, the disposable cannot be refilled and is usually just thrown away when empty. The lighters generally use a flint and wheel spark and a supply of gaseous fuel that comes from within the lighter as long as the thumb button is depressed. The average disposable lighter is not very effective in windy situations and is generally made with less durable materials. Still, these lighters are very popular because of their price and the wide range of designs they are available in.

Automobile Lighters

Automobile lighters are standard features of cars that use the current from the car’s battery to power a coil heater through the lighter receptacle. When the coil gets hot and glows red it can be pulled out by a handle and touched to the end of a cigarette to light it without an open flame. Modern vehicles still have the cigarette lighter receptacle, but this socket is more often advertised for use as a power outlet for other devices such as GPS units or portable music players.

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About the Author

Lee Morgan is a fiction writer and journalist. His writing has appeared for more than 15 years in many news publications including the "Tennesseean," the "Tampa Tribune," "West Hawaii Today," the "Honolulu Star Bulletin" and the "Dickson Herald," where he was sports editor. He holds a Bachelor of Science in mass communications from Middle Tennessee State University.