"Sit down," Stark sat without speaking. Warden sat on the bunk facing him and lit a cigarette. Stark rolled one .

"You want a tailor-made ?"

"I like these better. I always smoke Golden Grain," Stark said, eyeing him refelectively, but waiting cooley, "if I can get it. If I can't get Golden Grain, I would rather smoke Country Gentlemen than tailor-mades ." "From Here to Eternity," by James Jones

When I was about 7 or 8, an unwholesome friend introduced me to a trick he had learned from an older brother. It was called "caging butts."

We would follow some guy who was smoking, and when he filipped the butt away we would grab it and take a few puffs before it burned down.

The old, friendly neighborhood grocer helped the nicotine habit along by opening a 10-cent pack of cigarettes and selling them for a penny each.

During the Depression no one could afford a whole pack. A typical order for a kid running errands for a parent with a cigarette habit might be, "Put three cents on the number, a penny to box it and a penny to bleed it, and with the other nickel pick up five loosies."

A few "Mom and Pop" places had dispensers where you could slip a penny in. Out would come one cigarette.

My mother never smoked a cigarette in her life and frowned upon the habit. My father smoked a pipe, chewed tobacco occasionally, liked a cigar but hated cigarettes.

Once in awhile, when he became suspicious of my older sisters smoking, he would order me up the tree in the back yard to spy into their bedroom.

They were on to the spy mission and would wave to me, letting me know they had something on me, so I would climb down and report no activity.

I guess I was destined to be a smoker and to carry on in my own small way, the remarkable history of cigarettes.

Smoking was introduced to British troops during the Crimean War by their Turkish and French allies, and it wasn't long before Bond Street shops were hand-rolling their own.

Maybe because of the Crimean War link, smoking became closely associated with our fighting men, too.

Private organizations sent thousands of cigarettes for the boys overseas in WW I.

The "Doughboys" called them "fags" and sang about them: "Light up a lucifer from your old kit bag and smile smile, smile."

Camels, Lucky Strikes and Chesterfields were selling in the early 1920s along with a few lesser-known brands which deterred the smoker with unpuffable names like "Listerine" or "Wooden-Kimona Nails."

Much later, a group aimed at helping the smoker kick the habit came out with a brand called "Cancer." It had a blurb saying, "Cancer Filtered Cigarettes. A Daring Tobacco Combination."

Marlboro came along in 1925 and Old Gold made its appearance in 1926.

More brands followed -- to last briefly -- named for giants of literature, such as Shelley and Tolstoy.

Da Vinci's favorite model, Mona Lisa, had a brand named for her, and even Tarzan, who never polluted the jungle air with a gasper, had his name on a label. A sketch of Charlie "Tramp." Chaplin appeared on a pack called Teddy Roosevelt could be seen smiling and puffing away on a brand called,"Teddy."

Another role model, F.D.R., always appeared in newsreels with a long cigarette holder tucked inside his wide smile.

Hundreds of catchy names, domestic and improted, flooded the racks; brave solgans filled our air time. "Not a cough in a carload," and "Seven out of 10 doctors who smoke, smoke camels" and "for a treat instead of a treatment. . . treat yourself to Old Golds."

The boys on Madison Avenue wouldn't let up, and for a challenge-type slogan they wrote, "I'd walk a mile for a Camel."

During my formative years my mother also had a solgan: "If I catch you smoking, I'll break your neck." So I would have to walk a mile from the house to smoke.

The cigarette was ever present on the movie screen; it was a sex symbol, implying evil, thoughness, sophistication, blase airs, man-about-town worldliness. . . .

Of course, Robert Taylor did more for the cigarette industry than Peter Lorre or Sidney Greenstreet. A cigarette was also thr prop for Bogart, and we all know what happened to him.

I rembember sitting in the rear booth in an ice cream parlor after watching Paul Heried and Bette Davis in "Now Voyager," two cigarettes in my lips, ready to impress the teenager opposite me. When I lit up, I almost choked.

What red-blooded American boy could resist taking up the habit after watching Lauren Bacall or Veronica Lake sexily puffing away.

It wasn't all beautiful but it was still romatic in the war movies, when the dying GI was given his last cigarette. When it fell out, he was dead.

Bad guys lkie Erich von Stroheim could order an American battalion wiped out, all the while manipulating his cigarette holder as if he were conducting a band of brigands.

And who can forget Claude Rains standing at the airport in "Casablanca," gently tapping a cigarette on his case as he lets Paul Henried escape?

So we all kept smoking, too. An editor friend of mine described her first smoke: "I was about 15 or 16 in a summer camp when a tent-mate offered me a cigarette," she said. "The first drag felt like long red fingernails scratching the insides of my lungs, but I felt so sophisticated, and 25 years later I gave them up."

A long time has passed since a carton of cigarettes routinely lay gift-wrapped under the Christmas tree, a gift from a loving aunt, and the tobacco companies advertised with a joyous Santa Clause, his bag slung over the shoulder.

Maybe picking up from WW 1, the armed forces made it pretty easy for us to smoke during WW II, selling cigarettes for a nickel a pack.

The Red Cross got into the act with free cigarettes along with coffee and doughnuts.

The army in the field was eating C & K rations three times a day, and each serving included a pack of five cigarettes, making 15 free cigarettes a day right there.

Neighborhood saloons often had a big jar on the corner of the bar with a sign saying, "Donations for cigarettes for the boys in the service.

Every once in awhile during mail call on some God-fordaken Pacific island, a carton would arrive and you knew the gang back home was thinking of you.

On submarine patrols we couldn't wait for night to surface so the air could run through the boat and we could light up.

Terms like "the smoking lamp is out" meant you couldn't smoke while taking on ammunition or fuel. We waited for the order saying, "smoking lamp is lit.

Cigarettes were used for barter. Germans prisoners serving as mess cooks on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay kept a big basket at the end of the chow line so servicemen could toss cigarettes into it for tips.

Korean fishermen who gave information to submarines about Japanese shipping movements were frequently paid with cartons of cigarettes by the submarine skipper.

The cigarette symbolized the GI so much during WW II that where you found one, you expected to find another. A friend of mine related an experience he had in France:

"I was riding along in my jeep when a German shell exploded beneath it, lifting it right off the road, and I landed in a ditch," he said.

"I had no idea what happened and was covered with blood, when I saw a pair of shoes near my head.

"I heard the broken English of an old French farmenr asking, 'Do you have a cigarette?"

Cigarettes followed the wounded boys into the hospitals when the Brookyln Dodgers were sponsored by Lucky Strike.

The cigarette company had a list of all the veterans hospitals in the New York area and whenever a spectacular play happened, like a home run or double play, they would send a thousand cigarettes to the boys in bed.

On the other side of town, the N.Y. Giants were doing the same thing with Chesterfields.

So the habit was imbedded more deeply.

Unions sat for long hours at bargaining tables fighting for the five-minute smoke break away from the assembly line.

In 1954, filters were introduced. Today, according to the Tobacco Institute of America, there are about 170 brands, more than 90 percent of them filtered.

The surgeon general took a long look at smoking and in 1964 came out with the first caution report and in 1967 put a warning along the side of the pack.

Today the surgeon general is holding a press conference, this time aimed at warning about the dangers of women smoking cigarettes.

In spite of all the warnings, I'm like the cartoon character facing a firing squad.

Not entirely, throwing caution to the wind, as a last request I would probably ask the officer for a filtered cigarette.