You never know what coupons you'll get at the supermarket

August 04, 1997

Grocery store technology has advanced to the point of instant coupons. That's where the register looks over your purchases electronically then spits out a manufacturer's coupon for some product it believes you may be tempted to buy in the future.

I run into this phenomenon all the time with cat litter.

I buy Happy Mess brand cat litter and with the purchase I get a coupon for Slopp Stopper brand cat litter and the next time when I buy Slopp Stopper brand cat litter I get a coupon for Tinkle Sprinkles brand cat litter. It all smells like someone's hosing down a pine forest with ammonia to me, so what the heck.

So anyway, a friend of mine was shopping at a local grocery store and came away with a string of these coupons, the most interesting of which was for Winston brand cigarettes.


Here's what was catchy about the Winston coupon. It wasn't for regular old Winstons, oh no. This was for "New Winstons" that proudly advertise "No Additives. True Taste."

The smaller print says "Your brand may contain things a Winston doesn't - additives. Finally a cigarette with nothing but tobacco."

The even smaller print says "Warning: Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide."

Oh sure. So does an automobile tailpipe, but that doesn't stop me from crawling on my hands and knees through the parking lot a couple of times a day whiffing Mazda mufflers.

But can you imagine, tobacco with no additives?

Just what we need, organic cigarettes.

It still contains the same old tar and nicotine that turn your lungs into gray sacks of decaying hummus, but by golly we didn't use any DDT to kill the aphids. And along with that "smooth tobacco pleasure" you gain the added comfort of enjoying the smooth pleasure of smoking a bunch of chopped up June bugs that were still hugging the unsprayed leaves when the harvester came by. The new Winston "high protein formula" cigarettes.

What are they going to do next, supplement them with iron, vitamin B 12 and calcium? "Smoke Winston: What's a little lung cancer if you have good teeth?"

Still, my dad is an organic gardener and he's long been of the opinion that the insect sprays and even-burn brews are at least as bad for you as the nicotine. Looks as if he may have had a point.

And as usual, the tobacco companies are on the cutting edge of progress, coming to the organic party about 10 years after the fact - along with the supermarkets.

Have you noticed lately that in their produce sections supermarkets are now offering two sets of the same vegetable, one regular and one organic? For an extra 50 cents a pound you too can have a tomato that is bruised to a pulp and eaten to the stem by insects.

At least that's what you might expect of a true organic product that hasn't been saturated with fertilizing chemicals, sprayed, picked green and gassed for color.

But the organic zucchini always tastes exactly like the regular zucchini and looks exactly like the regular zucchini except that the organic zucchini has a sticker that says "Organic."

If dad has proved anything to me it's that true organic produce tastes worlds better than traditional produce. But perhaps the agribusiness people look on this as progress: Organic vegetables that taste just as bad as those raised in fields of glowing phosphorous.

But if it works for the supermarkets and the cigarette companies I guess it works for me. And it clears the decks for the next product generation: "Organic D-Con: Making sure the rats in your household die healthy."

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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