How The Tobacco Companies Should Spend Their Money

Once again, in the debate over California’s Proposition 29, the tobacco companies seem to have all the money in the world, even though relatively few people smoke nowadays.  Under the circumstances, I don’t shed much of a tear for them.

1.  They could put on their packs, in type as large as the health warning, “DISPOSE OF PROPERLY – PUT BUTT BACK IN PACK.”  Or, they could include a little plastic bag with each pack, of the kind that we insist dog walkers carry – no one crusades against dogs as a health hazard, and the way we deal with solid dog waste is the way we should deal with cigarette waste.  It’s amazing, in a society where so few people supposedly smoke, how much litter is composed of butts.  In fact, one reason I took up smoking cigarettes at the advanced age of 59 is precisely that I wanted to be able to practice what I preach, and show that it could be done.  A stupid reason for starting smoking?  Well, is there an intelligent reason for starting smoking?  I don’t think so.  I mean, if the beer companies can put on their cans “Dispose of Properly” so can Altria, or whatever it’s called.

2.  They could take back filters and recycle them into something, paying us a penny per filter, like we already do with certain kinds of glass bottles and cans.  Surely all those filters can be used for something.  And surely the tobacco companies have enough money to be able to support some research on this subject.  And, for those who wish to keep the penny in circulation [the Canadians are phasing out theirs, and no coin in common use in Europe is worth that little] here’s a use for it.

3.  Tobacco taxes could be used to support the supplemental health insurance system, for those who have trouble affording health insurance, because their product does burden the health care system.  I’m not in favor of a “public option,” necessarily, so I don’t know how it is to be worked out.  Maybe an “assigned risk pool” like with auto insurance.  Anyhow, tobacco should not be the cash cow for everybody’s favorite cause, as it seems to be now.  Cigarette smokers and rich people – not much overlap between the two nowadays – are the “other people” or “not me” whom we feel free to tax heavily.

4.  I never want to go back to the days of indoor smoking, with the possible exception of some bars [not restaurants] in colder or more extreme climates.  [I still find the idea of smoking with food, or with anything but water, beer, coffee, or bourbon, disgusting.]  The companies could chart and promote “smoking patios,” which are places where you can have your alcoholic drink and smoke at the same time, as people like to do. Amusing to British people are the restrictions on taking one’s drink outside; if you can’t smoke inside, and can’t drink outside, only on these patios do the two universes intersect.  Here in my own community, the individual bars are allowed to choose whether their “patios” [which you have to enter from inside, not from the street] allow smoking, or not; some do, some don’t, depending on their clientele.  And, apartment complexes that ban smoking in their apartments could have an outdoor space in the courtyard, where you can also take your drink.  It encourages certain people to leave their rooms and their video games and come out into the courtyard or street and be reasonably social.  Another reason why I don’t want to return to indoor smoking.  Public and street life is encouraged by banning it.  The New Urbanists ought to take a note of this.  And if people are trained to not drop their butts on the ground, the aesthetic and litter aspects of the vice can be minimized.  Smoking cigarettes, given the hazards, is something of an extreme sport; I have no problems with it being mainly an outdoor one.

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