Today, April 1st 2004, is the first day of the new Deutsches Kippenpfandt.
Germany is perhaps the most tidy nation in Europe with but one exception. The social taboo against littering does not apply to cigarette butts.
In a bid to reduce the number of Kippen thrown onto streets, railway platforms etc the government has launched an extension, dubbed the Kippenpfandt, to the much loved Dosenpfandt scheme. Unlike the Dosenpfandt in which consumers must pay a theoretically refundable cash deposit, the Kippenpfandt gets around this thorny issue by demanding the return of the Kippen at the time of purchase of a new packet.
So, from midnight last night, anyone hoping to purchase a packet of cigarettes would have to hand over not just their money but also a number of Kippen equal to the number of cigarettes to be purchased.
The German government did not see this as a problem. A spokesman pointed out that it would be fairly easy for a smoker to find sufficient Kippen on the street. Indeed, it seems as though things may work surprisingly smoothly. Yesterday evening, as word of the new scheme spread, large numbers of Bahnhofbewohner were picking up Kippen and counting them into bags. They hoped to sell their Kippen packs to needy smokers looking to make a purchase from the station kiosks.
One of the collectors warned that it might not be as easy as it seemed. "You can't trust anyone, some of these guys are only putting 18 Kippen in their bags. This could turn nasty."
One early shopper was not so pleased as he handed over his Kippenpack. "I'm buying 'lites' and yet most of the Kippen in this bag will probably be 'regulars.' By rights, I should only have to give them fifteen."
Anyone without the necessary Kippen still has a few hours to buy a packet. Many vending machines have yet to be converted to require the insertion of Kippen as well as coins. Machine owners have been given until 12 noon today to complete the conversion.