A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Buddy, Can You Spare a Newport?

My boys always joke that panhandlers in our neighborhood never try to bum a cigarette; it's always a Newport. Or a quarter for a Newport, or a dollar for a Newport. When I say that nobody ever tries to bum anything off of me, they just roll their eyes. Because you're a woman, they say. A middle-aged, white woman, and you've always got a dog. Everybody stays clear of you. But just try being a young guy and see what happens.

Well, I'm not a guy, so I don't know. But I do notice a lot of Newport boxes on the ground, come to think of it. I wonder why that is?

The Center for Disease Control reports that Marlboro, Camel and Newport are the top-selling cigarette brands in the country, and (surprise, surprise) the most highly-advertised. Also that menthol cigarettes are most popular in the Northeast and among blacks (70% smoke Newports). Formal and informal surveys around the country show that blacks prefer methol cigarettes by an overwhelming margin. It does appear that companies manufacturing methols target blacks in their advertising. And if you're poor and walking around downtown Springfield, you're likely to be black.

Massachusetts is the first state in the nation with a tobacco disclosure law. In mid-December, tobacco companies released nicotine delivery test data on 85 types of cigarettes. The top five in terms of nicotine yield were all varieties of Newport. So Newport gives you the most bang for your buck.

It's also been suggested that the pack design of the Newport box contributes to its popularity. When the top is opened, a little flap is created which may be used as an ashtray. That would make sense if you were trying not to litter. But since the average smoker on my street just tosses the empty pack on the ground, I'm not convinced that "portable ashtray" is a big factor.

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