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Claim: Cigarette packs were once redeemable to help the blind defray the cost of purchasing seeing-eye dogs.
Origins: This legend is an older version of the pull tab story, one about collecting large quantities of various worthless items to exchange for seeing eye dogs. As a 1948 book said of this rumor:
The most vicious and stupid case of pleasure-produced rumors came to light several years ago. According to this tale, blind persons could secure a Seeing Eye dog by saving cigarette packages, match boxes, quantities of tinfoil, or similar articles.
The cruel rumor gained widespread circulation throughout the United States. Scores of blind people and hundreds of their friends, anxious to help them, were victimized by the utterly baseless report. The rumors, which the Seeing Eye organization was completely unable to trace, stated that a blind individual could get one of their specially trained dogs by saving from 10,000 to100,000 of the various items.
Within a few months after the rumor began, the Seeing Eye received nearly a hundred letters and telephone calls from people who were eager to verify the tale. First the letters came from Philadelphia and its vicinity. Soon they bore Washington, Baltimore, New York and Poughkeepsie postmarks. An investigation of the letters revealed that for every one letter that was received, ten or more people were actively engaged in the collecting project. In some instances the entire community participated in the hope of securing a dog for some local blind person.
Despite the unceasing efforts of the Seeing Eye, the Better Business Bureau, commercial companies innocently involved, and the press, the rumor continues to dupe more people. Its circulation has caused needless frustration and heartbreak to already handicapped persons - the blind themselves.
One day, after a Philadelphia paper announced that the rumor was untrue, a blind young man walked into the office of the local Seeing Eye chairman. He said he had saved 25,000 packets. And he asked if something couldn't be done with them. Unfortunately, nothing could.
Barbara "seeing eye to eye with an old rumor" Mikkelson