The story opens with newscaster, KAREN SAYLEM, reporting on the “conflict" between the smoking Liberty Lighters, led by their heroic general, JOSEPH KAMELL, and the smoke-free Fresh Airers, commanded by the fanatical COLONEL CURTIS KLEENSLEEVES. The Liberty Lighters are a guerrilla outfit, in rebellion against the current establishment headed by President EDWARD J. PLEEZALL, 49th President of the United States. Pleezall is up for reelection and the Liberty Lighters know that if he’s reelected, their cause is lost. They're running their own candidate, Colonel BENJAMIN A. HEDGES, whom if elected, will turn back the repressive laws that have made the very act of having a cigarette a criminal act.

So with a week to go before the election, Pleezall desperately wants the rebellion crushed, thus guaranteeing that public opinion will fall away from the rebel's cause and sway toward him. Pleezall has no moral conviction on the smoking issue - in fact, he's a closet smoker himself - he simply wants to be reelected and viewed as a "good guy". His relationship with EVA, his nymphomaniac Swedish bride, is an outgrowth of his need to be "liked". So to ensure his own well-being, he instructs the power hungry and politically ambitious Kleensleeves to lead an all-out, final assault on the Liberty Lighters.

Kamell, the real hero of the story, is defending liberty, freedom and America's unalienable right to "choose". At least that what he keeps telling himself and his followers, which include the newswoman, Ms. Saylem, who’s secretly a spy for the Liberty Lighters. A true patriot herself, Saylem idolizes Kamell and all that he stands for. But more than this, she's deeply in love with him. Kamell has strong feelings for her also, but is unable to express them, and on the surface their relationship is all business.

However Kamell has another secret of his own, and just before the big battle with the Fresh Airers that will turn the tide for his cause, he reluctantly reveals it to Saylem and BUDDY WINSEN, his Sergeant and right-hand man. His big secret is, he wants to "quit"! Before he can explain though, Saylem and Winsen storm off, their image of him shattered, thinking he wants to quit their "great cause". Later they discover that Kamell doesn't want to quit the war, he just wants to quit smoking. They overhear him explaining to the now dead presidential candidate Ben Hedges, that he wants to quit smoking because he's in love with Saylem and wants to marry her someday and have kids, whom he doesn't want to pass the “nasty habit” on to. Saylem's heart melts as she overhears this, but it’s too late.

Just as Kamell’s confession is revealed, the Fresh Airers attack and all hell breaks loose. Kamell is critically wounded and Saylem is captured. Taken hostage by Kleensleeves, she’s forced to leave Kamell behind to die. It's then that she finally realizes that her love for him goes far beyond any "cause" or "inalienable rights". Believing Kamell to be dead, her spirit’s broken and she concedes to Kleensleeves without a fight.
However, unknown to Saylem, Kamell is rescued from certain death by a mysterious, independent military party (B.O.T.H. - Brothers of the Herb), who’ve been operating in the background during the entire war. Their goal has been to keep the conflict going, so as to promote their own “unique” agenda and divert public and political attention away from themselves. Peaceful by nature, they help Kamell get back on his feet and prepare for his final showdown with Kleensleeves and Pleezall.

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