Monday, February 12, 2007

Economy Of Smokes

What do cigarettes cost these days? I think it is about $8.00 a pack in Chicago. And that is a steep increase from just a couple of years ago. At 20 smokes a pack the current costs comes out to $0.40 a light.

I don't smoke but I have a lot of friends who do. Smokers are an ever decreasing little clan. And watching them interact over a smoke can be interesting.

Walking back from lunch today a (reasonably clean) beggar approached a lady walking a few feet in front of me. Apparently he didn't ask for money. He asked for a cigarette. She gave him one and then grabbed a second for herself. I could be wrong but if the guy had asked her for spare change I'd bet he would have been rebuffed.

Saturday night a group of us walked into Durkins and were checking our coats. A guy that walked in behind us asked my buddy, Joe, for a smoke. Joe handed him his pack but the guy passed it back. "I can't take your last one," the guy said. Joe flashed his knew pack to the guy and all was cool. The guy took the smoke and discarded the pack for Joe.

Another friend, Sean, smokes quite a lot. We're usually bellied-up to the bar on Tuesdays. It is fairly common for him to be asked for a smoke each night. If it's a girl, he always gives her one. If its a guy, usually he will. There are a couple of guys, guys the bartenders and waitresses think are creepy, that always ask Sean for a smoke. Depending on his mood he charges them a $1.00 for one or two cigarettes. Sometimes they pay. Sometimes they get indignant and walk away.

So what's the etiquette here? Is the culture of bumming cigarettes a hold over from when they were cheap and more common. It would seem that giving away a couple of cigarettes isn't a big deal if they only cost a couple bucks a pack. And if there are a lot of smokers around there is more opportunity for a smoker to bum one off of someone else, a net zero effect over all. But I question if that is still true at today's prices and with more people quitting every day.


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