There is cheering news from Washington, D.C., for inveterate bedtime smokers. Scientists at the National Bureau of Standards have announced that it is possible to produce cigarettes that are less likely to set the mattress on fire should they tumble from the lips of smokers succumbing to the lures of Morpheus. Moreover, the scientists say, these modem marvels will contain no more tar or nicotine than do low-tech cigarettes! (Cigarette ad, 1988: “Same great taste; won’t lay the house to waste.”)

The secret? Make thinner cigarettes containing less tobacco and using less porous paper that cuts down on air circulation. The fags will burn less hot, thus decreasing the chance that “soft furnishings” will catch fire.

The media in the States have been full of this one, seemingly in response to the dwindling numbers who still insist on killing themselves and polluting the air for others. But what the media...

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