Every so often something enters the public consciousness so quickly that you forget what life was like before it was introduced. Think Pret a Manger; think bendy buses; think automatic ticket barriers at Charing Cross station.
The lastest candidate for the “Remember the time that there weren’t any?” award has to be the stubbi — a heat and flame-resistant bag for your cigarette butt.
Depending on your location in London (and on whether you ever leave the house at weekends) you may have been handed these in town centres some time in the past couple of months.
Mayor Ken Livingstone, the Capital Standards Initiative and 26 London boroughs are handing out 15,000 of the “portable ashtrays” to the diminishing band of people who admit to smoking.
We’ve long been convinced that many of the campaigns against smoking in public are little to do with public health and a lot to do with cost-saving, so it’s nice to see the matter out in the open. Apparently local authorities spend about £370m a year cleaning up “general litter”. Cigarette butts make up a fair proportion of general litter, and local authorities want to cut down on cleaning costs.
Throw in a little bye-law that can result in a £50 fine if you stub out your cigarette on the pavement, and you have what might be termed a “nice little earner” — particularly if said council does not provide any easy means by which the poor persecuted ash addict can dispose safely of what is basically a smouldering stick.
How long before everyone comes to resemble the famed “bag ladies”, carrying around 15 separate pouches for different types of rubbish? It’s getting more and more expensive just to leave the house.
Oh, and we always thought a stubbi in Germany was a type of bottle. Don’t we have enough potential linguistic misunderstandings without deliberately inventing new ones?