Smoking in Peru: Inti Matches and Novelty Lighters

peru-inti-matchesI smoke cigarettes – Hamilton cigarettes, S/.4.70 and rising fast (that’s about $1.70 for a pack of 20). Naturally, my filthy habit makes me a social pariah, an object of scorn, disgust and outright filthiness.

On a more positive note, however, I’ve never felt that my smoking posed a threat to society as a whole. Until, that is, I began to use Inti safety matches…

Peruvian Cigarette Lighters

Let me first explain why I often use matches to light my cigarettes. Peruvian lighters are pathetic. You can buy the one sol variety that lasts about 3 hours before the top pops off, the flint falls out, and nothing ever works again. Alternatively, you can splash the cash and buy a two sol lighter that lasts about three days before dying through the same basic process.

peru-cigarette-lighterIn all my time in Peru, I’ve only owned two lighters that I was proud of, both of which were made in China. The first was green and chunky and had a little LED light on it. By some miraculous technological wizardry, this LED light could project an image of a bamboo-eating panda onto any flat surface within a few feet of the user. Quite brilliant, I’m sure you’ll agree, and the lighter itself lasted for a respectable amount of time.

I purchased the second of my faithful Chinese lighters about three weeks ago from the Bigote supermarket near Tarapoto’s main square. It’s refillable, it has a windproof jet flame and it only cost S/.2. Bargain. What’s more, when you press the ignition button a little panel lights up on the side of the lighter revealing a Chinese lady in a red bikini. Truly sensational.

Inti Matches: Peruvian Products of Doom

Anyway, I now refuse to buy cheap disposable lighters unless they are made in China and feature some kind of random gimmick. Therefore, I often find myself relying on matches. The most common brand around these parts is Inti, a proud product made in Peru. Each box contains “40 fósforos de seguridad”; the 40 bit is probably true, although I’ve never counted, but the safety claim is a blatant lie.

Inti matches are deadly, fire spewing tools of destruction. When struck, the bulbous phosphorus head has a tendency to propel itself in random directions, often achieving a distance of about three meters. People think I’m being polite when I walk outside to smoke my cigarette; my main reason for doing this, however, is to protect them, their furry pets and their homes from fiery Inti annihilation.

peruvian-products-inti-matchesInti, if you don’t already know, was the Inca sun god. If Inti himself was a smoker, it would certainly explain why the Incas made so many offerings to him. Any deity wielding a god-sized Inti match should definitely be appeased at all possible opportunities. In such circumstances, a smoking ban in heaven could help avoid a global extinction event.

OK, so I may be exaggerating here. In truth, only about one in five matches seem to cause any threat to life, but these are supposed to be safety matches. Thankfully, and quite wisely, the reverse of the Inti matchbox clearly displays the emergency number for the fire brigade. However, they should probably change “keep out of reach of children” to “keep out of reach of everything”.

God-sized Peruvian Barbeque Matches

Speaking of god-sized matches, the big brother of the standard Inti match is an awesome sight. Unlike its evil little brother, the fósforo parrillero Inti deserves respect. This is a barbeque-lighting match.  I would normally use firelighters in the UK, those white blocks of fuel that you put under the charcoal. These Inti things, however, are basically fat matches wrapped in fuel – you can actually strike them on the side of the box while holding the fuel-wrapped body of the match itself.

I guess similar things might be on sale in the UK or USA, but I’ve personally never seen anything like it outside of Peru. Whatever, they work like a charm. Spark up a couple of these bad boys, stuff them in the charcoal and away you go. So, as far as Inti fire making devices are concerned, big is definitely better.

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