On page 12 of the novel "The Lathe of Heaven", Dr. Haber offers Mr. Orr some cigarettes and says

"Do you smoke ? The brown filters are tranks, the white are denicks."

What do the words "tranks" and "denicks" refer to ? Are they just brands of cigarettes or do they mean something else ? I've thoroughly searched Google and come across no connection between the words "tranks" and cigarettes or "denicks" and cigarettes. Tranks do seem to colloquially refer to tranquilisers in the streets or to drugs that get you to sleep/calm down but I seriously doubt that that's what Dr. Haber is offering George as George is only there because he's been abusing drugs. The words aren't misprinted.

Any thoughts? Or am I just missing something obvious ?

  • 5
    denicks logically seems to be de-nicotined; the cigarette equivalent of decaffienated ("decaf") coffee.
    – gowenfawr
    Apr 21, 2017 at 21:45
  • Well now I feel dumb for not thinking of that... Apr 21, 2017 at 21:49
  • As I recall, Orr was using drugs to stay awake? So why wouldn't it make sense to offer him a "trank"?
    – user14111
    Apr 21, 2017 at 22:33
  • Well, I don't know because I haven't finished the book, but the drugs that the medic said he was taking included barbiturates and dexedrine. Barbiturates are a CNS depressant but dexedrine is a stimulant and keeps you awake so I'm not sure. Apr 21, 2017 at 23:27
  • @HsMjstyMstdn - The book doesn't go into the medical details, but Orr was self-medicating in an effort to specifically suppress REM sleep while still allowing at least some non-REM sleep.
    – Joe L.
    Apr 22, 2017 at 2:10

1 Answer 1


This is a world in which drug use is ubiquitous. The irony being that while the counsellor says that his goal is to help Orr off of drugs, literally his first action is to offer him more drugs

"O. K., fine, nothing out of the way there. If you'd been stockpiling your pills, to sell to addicts or commit a murder with, then you'd be in hot water. But as you simply used 'em, your punishment's no worse than a few sessions with me! Now of course what I want to know is why you used 'em, so that together we can work out some better life pattern for you, that'll keep you within the dosage limits of your own Pharm Card for one thing, and perhaps for another set you free of any drug dependency at all.

He's offered a choice of cigarettes, one assumes to facilitate the counselling sessions. These include tranks (offering a calming, tranquilising effect) and denicks (de-nicotineated cigarettes that allow you to smoke without becoming agitated).

You may wish to note that while to modern audiences this behaviour may seem unusual, in the 1970s, when the book was written, more than a third of the population regularly smoked. Being offered a cigarette in a session with a psychologist, psychiatrist or drug counsellor wouldn't have been in the least bit odd.

  • If irony it is, then your answer makes sense. Apr 21, 2017 at 22:12
  • 2
    Le Guin wrote about some odd scenarios for how smoking and drug use would develop in the future. It's even more striking in "The Word for World is 'Forest.'"
    – Buzz
    Apr 22, 2017 at 2:21

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