To give you some background, many years ago, in fact, almost two decades ago now, I was putting in a computer network for a company, Banush and Skelly Sales, who distributed a wide range of products to retail chains, such as the Bay, Sears, Wal-mart and so on. At the time my sister, who owned a plumbing and heating store in BC, and was also a smoker, also had the habit of sharing her cigarette with her husband. They were forever trying to figure out a way to temporarily put out the cigarette, then relight it when they wanted. Realizing that oxygen kept the cigarette going, she came up with cutting a small piece of copper pipe about an inch long, which she then rounded out the edges on so it would stand upright in an ashtray and hold the cigarette. Because the diameter of the pipe was only slightly larger than the cigarette, once the cigarette was placed in what we called a “butt-out” at the time, it went out instantly. Relighting it was also not a problem and there was no bitter taster either.
Back then I believed we had a fantastic product because I saw numerous applications for this device, from using it in an ash tray, to places like airplanes and buses and trains and anywhere people, at the time, smoked. Being a smoker myself I was forever leaving the house and wondering if I had put my smoke out, so my slogan was “The Butt-out. Now you know it’s out.” I put a proposal together for Banush and Skelly, who were very enthused about the concept. They happened to be heading to a meeting in New York with a company who marketed various products, similar to a K-Tel at the time. When they showed the product to them they went rummaging around in a closet and brought out a moulded ashtray with what was a similar piece in the middle to snuff the cigarette. It was a product patented by Ronco, but they said they never really did anything with marketing or developing the idea.
Remember that this is back in the days when smoking was pretty well allowed everywhere and cigarettes were cheap. Now the whole world has changed, of course, and smoking is banned everywhere, plus the cost of cigarettes has sky-rocketed. People are forced outside to seize every opportunity to grab a few quick puffs anywhere they can, usually outside of buildings or restaurants or bus stops and so on. Because there is no easy way to snuff a lit cigarette I have seen the better part of full cigarettes lying on the ground – a very expensive thing. Not to mention that butts are everywhere you look, and they will be there for a very long time if no one cleans them up. Because you are dealing with a lit cigarette people are hesitant to throw them into the garbage for fear of setting it on fire, so the butts end up on the ground.
So, first we have the litter problem, which affects everyone and, secondly, for the smoker, we have the need to be able to have a smoke and either snuff it for later or dispose of it safely.
The SnuffIt looks like the old fountain pens, but it contains a copper sleeve that serves to instantly starve the oxygen and safely extinguish the cigarette. The smoker can then relight it later, saving a fortune, or safely dispose of it in the trash and soon as it has been extinguished. Problems solved.
There are numerous options on how to market the product. It could be sold to municipalities to give away when they introduce heavy fines for littering cigarette butts, in a Keep London Butt Free campaign, for example. It could include an ad sleeve and be used as a giveaway as part of advertising campaigns by the cigarette companies, who have had their advertising opportunities severely limited. It could be distributed by targeted companies most affected by butt litter, such as people like Greyhound, local bus lines and Via Rail. Possibly upscale versions, similar to expensive fountain pens, could be sold retail.
No smoker wants to draw attention to the fact that they still smoke; however, we also don’t want to be seen as imposing on other people who choose not to smoke. Every time a smoker throws down a butt or steps on it to put it out, they look around nervously to see who’s watching. It is also a pretty well-known fact that butts are not biodegradable and those butts will be there for decades to come if no one cleans them up.
The time is right for a product like this. Even though smoking is on the decline, the thousands of cigarette butts you see everywhere clearly shows that a lot of people still enjoy a smoke.
I approached a couple of companies to market the product, but got nowhere, even with companies who marketed environmental products, which I thought would be a perfect fit. Someday, someone will make a bazillion dollars off this idea.