Dr Puzant Torigian has dedicated more than 50 years of his professional life to the development of a safer cigarette, According to the Columbia educated doctor, it all started in 1958 at a cocktail party whena colleague told him of his efforts to find an alternative to tobacco in the manufacture of cigarettes in order to eliminate many of the health problems associated with smoking. Dr. Torigian was intrigued with the idea and asked his friend if he could take over the task and with his blessing soon began experimenting with numerous leaves including carrot and beet tops, maple leaves, rhododendrons, cabbage and lettuce. In the end, it was lettuce which seemed to produce the best results.
In the early 1960s, with the help of several investors, he set up a manufacturing facility in Hereford, Texas which was near several lettuce growing farms. The lettuce leaf was processed, rolled into sheets and placed in drying racks .It was then rolled into cigarettes at the plant and packaged on a contractual basis. The launch of the first lettuce leaf cigarette was met with very little enthusiasm by the smokers who tried it. Most of the reviews focused on the unusual aroma and taste. The operation ended after only a few years, the Hereford facility closed and Bravo Cigarettes disappeared from the market. Torigian always placed blame for the failure on disagreements among the investors who had backed his venture rather than problems with the product.
Strangely, the company resurfaced in Dallas, (presumably without Dr. Torigian),under the name “Triumph Cigarette Company”. The new firm marketed Triumph Cigarettes in the early 1970s (again made with lettuce leaf) but they never met with much success. Most likely, this was done by one or more of the original investors in the Bravo Smokes venture.
Dr Torigian has an impressive resume which includes serving as president of the drug firm M.R. Thompson and being issued several patents on such products as liquid baby aspirin. As such, he was not about to give up on his life-time dream of a nicotine free cigarette. In 1997, the Bravo Smokes Company resurfaced in Wheeling, West Virginia under Torigian’s directorship. This time, the doctor had patented two unique processes for treating the iceberg lettuce leaf to eliminate any unpleasant aroma or taste. The leaf was shredded, pressed into long sheets and then treated with special enzymes which supposedly eliminated the problems.
This time, the sales approach was to market Bravos and their new Fumarillo Small Cigars as an aid to quitting smoking altogether. By 2001, Torigian had acquired two packaging machines from Robert A. Gordon Company of Stillwater, PA in order to put the whole manufacturing process under one roof. That year the company processed nearly 2 million pounds of raw lettuce leaf into cigarettes. However, sales at the retail level remained slow.
These days, you can find Bravo Smokes online offering a “Smoker’s Survival Kit” at $92.50 for heavy smokers. For this, you will receive a kit with 18 packs of Bravos as well as a booklet explaining how to quit using the unique lettuce leaf smoke.With the recent growth in popularity of e-cigarettes, it may be safe to assume that the prospects for Dr. Torigian’s lettuce leaf smokes will be further diminished..
Drying racks stand empty in the Bravo Smokes factory in Hereford, TX which was abandoned in the late 1960s.. This attempt to market a lettuce leaf cigarette is believed to have failed primarily because the odd taste and smell but Torigian insisted that it was due to interference with management decisions by one of the several major investors.