Scientists here announced a breakthrough device they claim will make smoking safe.
The device is a small plastic baggie that fits over the end of a cigarette. The smoker puts the device over the unlit end of the cigarette immediately after lighting up. If the device is used correctly each time, scientists say, the smoker will not inhale deadly fumes.
"For years anti-smoking campaigns have been premised on a flawed assumption: that abstinence is the only safe alternative to smoking" said Dr. Navarra Krupnik, lead scientist on the hitherto top-secret 'Safe-Smoke Project."
"People can't be expected to actually quit smoking. Smoke abstinence is naive in the extreme, and quite dangerous" said Dr. Krupnik, shaking her head. "We can now offer smokers a safe, effective alternative: 'Safe-Smoke.'"
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan hailed the announcement as "breathtaking." A press release issued shortly afterward stated that the Secretary-General "did not mean 'breathtaking' literally, but figuratively. 'Safe-Smoke' promises to save tens of millions of lives world-wide."
At a hastily called press conference, President Obama promised to commit $1 trillion to a world wide "Safe-Smoke" educational ad campaign.
"I want to apologize today for American intransigence. For too long we have accepted Smoke-Abstinence as our only hope in the war against smoking. And it is a war; make no mistake.
"But Smoke-Abstinence simply does not work" said the President, pausing to cough. "It is one of the many failed policies of the last Administration. And we can do better.
"Because safe-smoke gives us the hope we need to win this war.
"And yes, we can do better.
And yes, we must do better.
And citizens of America, citizens of the World, I promise you this day: we will do better."
The President exited the White House press room to a thunderous standing ovation. Several reporters fainted; one had to be taken to a local emergency room, where he was given oxygen and released.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for hearings on smoking in America. "No one from the Department of Health told me this was going on" said the Speaker.
The Secretary of Health and Human Services released a carefully worded statement in response: "Get real."
"All these objections can be ignored as stupid" said Dr. Krupnik, shrugging her shoulders as she took a drag on her Lucky Strike cigarette and handed her pet hyena a dog biscuit. "Anyone who actually expects people to quit smoking is either a lunatic or a religious fanatic, or both."