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Giant Cigarette Butt in Pioneer Court Encourages Smokers to 'Swap'

By Lizzie Schiffman Tufano | March 1, 2013 12:57pm | Updated on March 1, 2013 3:57pm

MAGNIFICENT MILE — If the health risks associated with cigarettes haven't been enough motivation to quit, a new tax that raises the cost-per-pack to nearly $12 might make smokers think twice.

That's the motivation behind Nicorette's Smoke Swap Friday and Saturday in Pioneer Court, where the smoking cessation company will be trading cigarette packs for "quit kits," including nicotine patches, crave-suppression gum or coupons for online support programs.

"We look for opportunities when we can connect with smokers when they're motivated to quit," said Debbie Bolding, a Nicorette spokeswoman at Pioneer Court Friday. "We know from our research that cost is a big factor behind that. I mean, $12 to $13 for cigarettes is a lot to pay, especially for many smokers who smoke more than a pack a day."

It worked on M. Woods, a visitor to Chicago who said he was just cursing his forgetfulness for leaving his pack of cigarettes in the car when he saw the Nicorette booth, and left with a sample of Nicorette gum he said he plans to try.

"It makes you think, 'Ugh, I don't want to smoke anymore," Woods said. "I'm trying to quit. Now I've got my gum."

If the 20-foot cigarette butt installed in the plaza doesn't get the attention of Downtown visitors on a smoke break, an edible, high-heeled foot stamping out a smaller cigarette stub might.

Naomi Levine, owner and operator of Chicago's boutique bakery TipsyCake, is a smoker herself struggling to quit. She said she reached out to Nicorette and offered to create the confectionary masterpiece to show her support for their cause.

"I have struggled with smoking on and off over the years, along with some members of my family, and I'm a big supporter of Nicorette and Nicoderm," Levine said. "Hence the reason to create such a fabulous cake: for such a fabulous company like them, and this cause."

The $1 Cook County tax that took effect Friday raises the total per-pack tax in the city to about $6.66.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said that the increase will raise $25.6 million in revenue for Cook County’s hospitals and health care system.

The Smoke Swap continues through 6 p.m. Friday and runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.