Fri, Feb 18, 2005 - Page 14 News List

Collectors go potty for Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor's lighters

By Jules Quartly  /  STAFF REPORTER

Collector Jamie Killick shows off his lighter.

PHOTOS: JULES QUARTLY, TAIPEI TIMES

The state-owned Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation (TTL) has unwittingly created a demand among collectors for what is said to be a marijuana-leaf-styled lighter, that has a glowing ring of blue and red when opened and a serious twin-torch-style flame.

The special edition lighters were released and immediately recalled over the Chinese New Year holiday after consumers and journalists notified the company that its special promotion lighter, which comes in a three-pack of Long Life (長壽) cigarettes, was (presumably unintentionally) promoting the illegal drug marijuana -- the possession of which is punishable by drug rehabilitation and prison.

TTL said the leaf at the center of the lighter was a Japanese maple leaf, which has seven leaves. According to a company statement posted on the Ministry of Finance Web site this showed it was a maple leaf and not a cannabis plant, which it said has nine leaves. In fact, the cannabis plant typically has five to nine leaves and often seven. The two plants look similar.

This has delighted Jamie Killick, a visitor from the UK, who was given the lighter by a friend who bought it at an OK store. TTL vice president Martin Tsai (蔡木霖) said the number of recalled lighters was 65,800.

"A big thing was made of this," Tsai said, "but it was just a mistake and that's it."

"I was quite surprised to see the lighter. I know the laws here are pretty tight," Killick said. "I was well surprised that TTL was sponsoring it. It was a shock. I'll put the lighter in a little bag and keep it safe. It could be worth something in the future."

Presently, an innocuous light-blue transparent lighter is being sold with packs of Long Life.

Collectors like Killick, however, are holding onto their limited-edition lighters. Who knows? They could become classics, if they aren't already, he said.

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