It probably helps that my work schedule and absolute lack of disposable income has kept me out of my usual watering hole, The Vortex, because as bad as it is that I know the bartender will spare me a smoke if I want one, there's also a decent chance on any given night that the Camel people will show up and wave free product in my face. Having a momentary lapse, breaking down and bumming that one smoke off of your bartender, that's one thing; breaking down and having one cigarette and waking up the next morning with 19 more in your pants pocket, that's a whole other ball game. What are you going to do, throw 'em out? Of course not! They love you. They want you to be happy. And they're free.
So I was pretty jealous of quitters in Massachusetts when I read an article today about their state legislature considering a bill banning cigarette giveaways like the ones that probably supplied one third of my habit for the last couple of years. (Can you believe it? A state legislature that's still going about the people's business? I know!) Massachusetts would join anti-smoking pioneer California and seven or eight other states if it banned the practice, but those northeastern liberals would kick it up a notch: hippie tree-hugging California only bans the giveaways unless they take place at a venue at which minors are restricted (venues like, say, smoking bars in Georgia). MA would ban the practice outright, not just protecting minors, as the other states proclaim, but weak-willed quitters like myself. The great state of Washington finally succeeded, after about six years of tenacity on the part of a Republican, in passing a similar comprehensive ban that took effect one week ago. Maybe one of our members running for the House this year will read this and offer up a bill next year to save me from myself.
Now, I'm in favor of protecting the children and everything; Whitney Houston said they are our future, and when she's not coked out, she's got some good things to say. But I'm starting to get a little resentful about articles like this and that going on and on about peddling to minors while giving short shrift to us older addicted schmucks.
But state Sen. Bob Oke of Gig Harbor, the irascible Republican who's sponsoring the sampling ban bill, says the real purpose of such promotions isn't to attract current smokers but to recruit new ones. "The tobacco companies very well know that the percentage of people over 18 that start smoking for the first time is almost zero," Oke says.
Tell that to most of the grad student smokers I know, Bob. Shoot, tell it to poor Jennifer Anniston! She wants so badly to quit smoking that she might let Vince Vaughn impregnate her to push her over the edge; that's a problem, my friends, unless you consider the few glorious months in which she won't be able to act.
It's pretty ridiculous if you think about it: who else gives away so much of their product as a marketing ploy? At least every other week, the death patrol would hand me two packs of premium cigarettes -- we're talking over $200 a year in product. Could you imagine getting that much free coffee from Starbucks? That's your Monday morning latte fix right there! Nor would I mind a free pint of Guinness every Friday after work, no questions asked. Five tanks of gas for free? Your annual dental cleaning and x-rays? A quarterly lap dance? Like I said about coal: if they're sellin' it so hard, you know they're probably lying to you. So once you've gotten your fix of the Inconvenient Truth, go catch the hilarious lies of Thank You for Smoking before it's gone from the theater. You'll wish you had two free packs of Depends undergarments, you'll be laughing so hard.