Ovid (publius_ovidius) wrote,

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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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