WWII vet who invented nicotine-free cigarettes from lettuce dies in Charlotte at 99

·3 min read

Charlotte World War II veteran Puzant Torigian dedicated much of his life to helping people end their addiction to nicotine and tobacco.

When a colleague in 1959 challenged him to develop a tobacco- and nicotine-free cigarette, Torigian, a chemist by profession, went to work testing tobacco substitutes in his lab, according to a blog on WeirdUniverse.net.

World War II veteran Puzant Torigian was a chemist who dedicated much of his life to helping people end their addiction to nicotine and tobacco.
World War II veteran Puzant Torigian was a chemist who dedicated much of his life to helping people end their addiction to nicotine and tobacco.

He tried “kale, grape, cabbage, kohlrabi, spinach, carrot, peanut, tomato leaves, and sugar beet tops,” before finding lettuce was best, according to the blog.

In 1965, Torigian, backed by investors, introduced Bravo, a tobacco- and nicotine-free cigarette, to the U.S. market.

“If you can’t give up smoking ... give up nicotine,” read the jingle in a 1966 ad in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that’s posted in the blog. “Smoke Bravo.”

Puzant Crossley Torigian died peacefully in Charlotte on Oct. 3, according to his obituary. He was 99.

His memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Sarkis Armenian Church in Charlotte, where he and his wife, JoAnne, served for years on the parish council.

Puzant Torigian was born in Constantinople, Turkey, on Sept. 21, 1922, according to his obituary.

After immigrating to America, he joined the Navy and served during the war as a pharmacist’s mate first class V-6 aboard the USS. Comstock from 1942 to 1946.

“Around many a holiday dinner table, he would reminisce about the past and say these years on the U.S.S. Comstock were some of the best times in his life,” his family said in his obituary. “The patriotism and discipline he learned in the Navy never left him.”

Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, only 240,329 were alive entering 2021, including 6,625 in North Carolina, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. At least 230 die each day, department data shows.

After the war, Torigian earned a bachelor of science pharmaceutical degree at Columbia University in New York and a postgraduate degree from New York University. He also received a doctorate from the University of Florida, according to friend Andrew Derderian, a member of the St. Sarkis Armenian Church Parish Council.

Over the decades, he was a pharmaceutical industry executive whose patents included two for eliminating unpleasant aroma and taste in iceberg lettuce “when the leaves were dried and rolled into cigarettes in place of tobacco,” his family said in his obituary.

Bravo fulfilled Torigian’s near-lifelong dream of helping people end their nicotine addictions, family and friends said.

“He was very passionate about ending the addiction to smoking,” Derderian told The Charlotte Observer on Friday.

Torigian also is survived by his daughter and two sons, a granddaughter, two great granddaughters, a nephew, niece and great grandniece.

His family requests that masks be worn for the service. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Sarkis Armenian Church, 7000 Park Road, Charlotte, NC 28210.

Puzant will be buried in a family plot at Cedar Grove Cemetery in New York.

Tributes and condolences may be made on the Heritage Funeral and Cremation Services website.

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