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A cigarette butt must be one of the more bizarre items to be auctioned on an internet website, but the sale drew widespread attention and more than 130 000 bids earlier this year. It was not just any old butt, but one certified by the owners of Malt, a popular bar in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, to be the remains of the last cigarette legally smoked in the bar in the last few seconds of the day on 9 December last year. At midnight, the country’s stringent ban on smoking in workplaces came into force.
Within a short time of being advertised, bids for the butt, mounted in a transparent showcase and accompanied by the certificate of authenticity, had shot up into thousands of dollars, for what many web surfers described as an unusual “collector’s item” and piece of “kiwiana” (the kiwi is the flightless bird found only in New Zealand, a name borrowed as an informal word for the country’s inhabitants). Fellow kiwis heaped praise on the seller for his extraordinary creativity in thinking of putting such an unlikely item up for sale, and attracting such high bids. The successful bidder paid NZ$7475 (US$5377).
Those kiwis interested in public health might consider trying to find, and then auctioning, another bit of kiwiana from the first half of the last century. Older public health workers recall a time when their country had a law prohibiting the sale of cigarettes to children, but with a permitted exception. Shops were allowed to make the sale if a doctor’s certificate was produced, certifying that there was a medical reason why the child should be supplied with the cigarettes. One of those original certificates would look very good on anyone’s wall.
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