Here’s an idea I had as a person with a problem that’s not being solved efficiently. I who started out as a vehement non-smoker, bummed a cigarette every now and then from friends, became a full-on smoker, then went cold turkey, and now buys a pack once every couple of weeks or so, smokes a cigarette to fulfill a craving and then feels burdened by the remaining cigarettes.
There ought to be a bum-a-cigarette app. I have often felt like bumming cigarettes from strangers, but I’ve also always felt shy. I don’t want to impose. (Also, it’s kind of pathetic, and just goes to show how substance addiction controls you.) At the same time, I like the idea of having these serendipitous encounters.
Here’s the problem that “needs” solving: There are smokers. There are people who want to smoke, but who don’t have a pack of cigarettes with them, and maybe don’t want to buy an entire pack of cigarettes at a time.
Ideally, there should be a very fluid economic transaction between these pack-owning smokers and “I kinda want a cigarette” smokers. But there isn’t. It’s quite embarrassing to ask for a cigarette. It makes you look like a moocher. You might get turned down. Worst of all, you get forced to confront your horrible addiction. Urgh.
So here’s the solution: A bum-a-cigarette app. It’ll have to be location-based, showing you smokers in your area. In your building, in your block, nearby. (Note the side-benefit here: you can find smoking buddies! Yay for social lubricant, at the expense of personal health.)
Smokers can set a price on the cigarette that they’re willing to sell. Say a pack costs $10, or 50 cents per cigarette. You could easily charge $1, $1.50, even $2 or $2.50 per cigarette. Cigarettes are price-inelastic. So smokers should want to use this app, because it means they’ll have their cigarette habit subsidized by desperate trying-to-quit-but-damnit-I-just-need-one smokers. Most of us have been there, we empathize. The desperate smokers will pay to be spared the indignity of buying a pack themselves, which is just a resignation to failure.
The smokers benefit, the please-just-one smokers benefit, the tobbacco companies benefit. The app can take a small cut of the sale. I suppose public health suffers. That sucks It’ll be interesting to see what sort of discussions people have about something like this.
I’d name the app Smoke Buddy. And I imagine that tobacco companies would be rather interested in the development of something like this. Unfortunately, this encourages smoking. I’m trying to quit, lol. If I knew I could bum cigarettes from strangers more easily, in a way that is mutually beneficial, I’d never buy a pack again. Is this good or bad? I don’t know. You tell me. I think it’s a cool idea. I think it could work. But I don’t have the time or energy to make something like this happen. Let me know if you do.
PS: Smoking is a horrible thing, blah blah. Don’t do it, etc etc.
EDIT: Found out that this idea sorta-exists in the form of something called “Bump-A-Smoke”, and it involves buying virtual cigarettes and trading them for real ones. I find this a little tacky/inelegant. I think paying with cash (paypal, credits, whatever) makes more sense, because it allows people to set their own prices rather than be constrained by this artificial “cigarette marketplace” which just starts to make the whole thing look tedious and contrived. (Over-focusing on the specifics makes things feel awkward. Isn’t this the problem with all dating sites? People want to date, but they don’t want to look like they spend time on dating sites. Etc etc.)