Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Buying cigarettes

Back in the 1960's in Australia you could buy a 5 pack of cigarettes. No, not 5 packets, 5 individual cigarettes in a small, almost cute, packet. Sometime in the 1970's though I don't remember exactly when, an act of Federal Parliament made it illegal to sell cigarettes in quantities of less than 20 in Australia. You can still buy 20 packs but these days (or at least those days in 2002) it's more common to see packs of 25 or 30. Heck, you can buy Longbeach 1's in packs of 40; there are one or two brands sold in 50's and at least one brand that comes as 100 to the pack.

You need one helluva large pocket to hold that one!

I understand the reasoning behind the minimum count is that it makes it harder for juveniles to purchase a pack of smokes.

Nice theory. Somewhat akin to that of King Canute.

On the other hand, I'm remembering my childhood. Back then we had the option of purchasing a 5 pack, but given that there were 3 or 4 of us sharing the one pack that wasn't a realistic option. I've already written about how we stole 13 coke bottles to buy a pack of 20.

In 1964 that 3 and thruppence was significant money. My pocket money at the time was sixpence; at that rate it would have taken 7 weeks of saving to purchase a 20 pack. A 20 pack these days costs less than a weeks pocket money.

Today I went in search of smokes in Baguio City, Philippines. I've done it before; it's an interesting experience to descend into the street markets. Incredibly crowded. Black market money changers, old women bent almost double, an amazing array of unfamiliar foodstuffs - it's an olfactory experience. There are also many street vendors selling single cigarettes! Down in Manila it's nothing to see hawkers walking through the slowly moving traffic selling one cigarette at a time.

I was with a local; he warned me to keep an eye on my wallet; 'mate' I said 'see where my hands are?'. He saw and laughed. Both hands thrust into my pockets; no one is going to lift my wallet without me knowing about it

We found a cigarette seller (like they're hard to find ). A carton of 200 smokes that would cost me over A$60 or US$35 costs a mere P245 (that's about US$5). I bought 4 cartons. What was interesting was that instead of the carton containing 10 packs of 20 smokes, it contains 20 packs of 10 smokes. Even more interesting, they're bound up as 10 sets of 2 packs. Each set is wrapped in cellophane. When one peels off the cellophane to obtain 2 10 packs it's amazing to discover that each 10 pack is wrapped in it's own cellophane.

I can't imagine why they've done it that way; it has to add to the cost.

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