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Government-enforced addiction
by Michael Giardina

Happy Friday, you nervous, fidgeting, yellow-fingered tobacco-puffers. Are you enjoying your government-approved crack today? Then tell me the story of your nicotine addiction. Did it all start with the pungent, leafy aroma of one single glorious, smokeable tube? I bet a single puff turned you into the raging Camel monger you are today.

Not likely. Addiction takes routine and consistency. So, explain to me why it's against the law to sell single cigarettes.

That's right, 14 states prohibit the sale of single cigarettes, known affectionately as "loosies." Twenty-one states also prohibit the sale of cigarettes in packs containing fewer than 20 cancer rods. As if that weren't enough, 10 states require bags of tobacco to contain at least 0.6 ounces. Any less: criminal.

Distributors are required by law to sell an addictive, carcinogenic substance in bulk? They can't sell a few singles to help people curb their addiction? Gosh, the tobacco companies don't look to benefit from this law one bit. There must be an explanation.

Children. Yes, children. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, selling single cigs facilitates youth smoking. By their logic, youths can't purchase cigarettes and will resort to shoplifting singles.

They're full of poppycock: The law already requires that cigarettes be stored behind the counter. Unless clerks are letting babies stuff their bibs full of behind-the-counter merchandise, the precious loosies are safe from their grimy, probing fingers.

So there must be another reason single cigarettes entice kids to start puffing pooch. Well, NIDA refers to packs containing fewer than 20 cigarettes as "kiddie packs" because they're smaller and less expensive. Isn't that precious? How about "aunt with emphysema packs" because they provide fewer tempting cigarettes that will kill your beloved Aunt Matilda?

Another explanation: Cigarettes must be sold with the Surgeon General's warning and since the warning is on the pack, you can't sell the single cigarette. So print the damn warning on a cigarette tube or on the cigarette itself.

Single Stick, Inc., distributors of Prime Time Cigars, tried this route. Unsurprisingly, most single Prime Times have disappeared from shelves. Unfamiliar with these little buggers? Imagine cigars the size of cigarettes.

David Michael of The Cranky Consumer news feed explained it.

"A sales representative informed me that the state of California has revoked their distribution license for the entire state," Michael said. "Apparently, the only thing that is illegal is the Prime Time singles, due to their low weight that classifies them as a cigarette and not a cigar."

Single Stick, Inc. admits there was a weight-related recall but Shawn Lawrence, legal counsel for Single Stick, said he has no knowledge of any statewide ban.

The Attorney General also was unable to confirm these statements. Nonetheless, stores in both Davis and Sacramento seem frightened enough to toss all of their little pseudo-loosies in the crapper.

Employees at Newsbeat, a newsstand in downtown Davis, said the cigars are no longer sold as singles and must be purchased in packs.

When asked about Prime Times, an employee at a smoke shop in Sacramento's Arden Fair Mall said, "No, no. I don't deal in those anymore." Interesting choice of words.

Maybe if the government spent less time forcing companies to sell larger quantities of tobacco and more time funding those searching for a safer cigarette, we could all sleep better at night.