Cigarette Economics

Given that I'm pretty much a lefty in many respects, it may surprise folks that how much it bugs me that many areas try and screw with the market by banning the sale of individual cigarettes outside of their wrapping. Why do they do they do this? In the theory that it will cut down on sales to minors. Meanwhile, folks like me who are trying to quit often find ourselves buying an entire pack rather than a single cigarette to tide us over. We wake up in the morning upset that we blew a fiver but keep the smokes because we don't want to waste the cash. Me? I ran water over the cigarettes before tossing them in the trash. I smoked three cigarettes. That's almost $1.70 a smoke. Hey buddy, can I buy a smoke off you?

So banning individual cigarette sales, instead of keeping cigarettes out of minors, may be making it harder for many smokers to quit. I'm sure the tobacco companies aren't too upset about that. They know that sooner or later they have to give their kiddie ride; may as well keep everyone else on the hook. Of course, if this is really what's happening, it's the fault of the legislators for tampering with a market they don't understand. They won't force tobacco companies to internalize the costs so they pass silly laws in an attempt to look good at the polls.

So does refusing to sell individual cigarettes keep 'em out of the hands of minors? Not from what I can see, but then, I really don't have hard data. In Oregon selling tobacco to a minor is a Class A violation and you get a fine of not less than $100.00. From reading the law, ORS 163.575, it's pretty vague what actually happens to you. How about instead of silly feel good legislation which may or may not work, we simply impose a "three strikes" (in a given time period) rule and you can't sell cigarettes for a year? I guarantee that businesses will be falling all over themselves to comply. They'll institute their own secret shopper programs without waiting for the state to intervene. It'll hardly cost taxpayers a dime and may actually accomplish what it's supposed to accomplish.

Which is my way of saying it'll never happen.
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"I ran water over the cigarettes before tossing them in the trash."


I've done that.

I've also dug the cigarettes out of the trash 24 hours later, was pleased to find they had dried out by then, and smoked them.

I'm lame.

In India all cigarettes are available singly, always. I miss that.
They don't sell cigarettes as singles here in norway, only as 10 and 20 packs, and that doesn't seem to stop the PFYs from getting hold of them. (And yes, it is illegal to sell to those under 18)

Like the three strikes idea.

Anyway, if you want to toss the habit, look up the Nicorette chewing-gums. They worked for my mother and she was a regular chimney...

Don't pour water on the rest of the pack, use syrup instead...
(It won't dry out as easily, and it certainly won't leave them in the same condition as before... )

I guess that the ban on selling cigarettes is an idea the tobacco lobby came up with to stave off more serious laws.

Oh, I don't think your "three strikes" idea will work.
/Who/ sells cigirates to minors three times in a year and can't sell any more? The corporation? Easy to make a new one. The individual? Who cares, checkout clerks are replacable parts.
That would be the store...

At least here, if they're caught selling to minors, it's the store which gets the fine and warning.
(And optional suspension)

Trust me, the fear of that keeps the stores on the right side of the law...
Cashiers, who are spotted by the manager, who sells to someone they don't KNOW is old enough and doesn't ask for ID... well... in some cases they can just count the till and pack their things.
They don't sell cigarettes individually because it's too difficult to tax them.
So banning individual cigarette sales, instead of keeping cigarettes out of minors, may be making it harder for many smokers to quit. I'm sure the tobacco companies aren't too upset about that.

Don't believe for an instant that the States have much interest in getting folks to quit, either. The states collect more in taxes and tobacco-settlement money than the tobacco companies make in profit. Those hundreds of billions of dollars in the '98 tobacco settlement are certainly not coming out of the tobacco company's pockets - in fact, there are provisions in the agreement which were put in to make sure that no new company can sell tobacco without having to jack up their prices to fund the settlement even if the new company wasn't part of it.

Anyway, as far as the single-cigarette thing goes, the '98 settlement included a provision mandating a minimum pack size of 20 cigs (which provision sunset in '01 but was presumably extended). It's part of the set of provisions meant to help prevent kids from getting cigs.
But make no mistake - the governments are effectively now full partners with the tobacco companies, not their adversaries.

For some interesting observation, take a look at what's going on in CA. Do, say, a google search on "reiner tobacco taxes".

And look at how much of the tobacco settlement money has been used so far for anti-tobacco programs versus just using it as part of general state government budgets.

In a similar vein, take a look at how much governments have collected in petroleum-related taxes compared to oil company profits...