Local barflies won’t have to worry about a designated driver or bus ticket Friday night, thanks to a free ride downtown paid for by the likes of Joe Camel and the Marlborough Man.
Bill’s Bus, a service providing students round-trip transportation from Isla Vista to State Street Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at a cost of $6, will be operating free of charge tonight. Santa Barbara County’s Tobacco Prevention Settlement Program and the Shand Group, a local advertisement agency, sponsored the free ride. They have covered the bus with anti-smoking banners and will be distributing wristbands with campaign slogans and phone numbers of local health educators.
The campaign is financially supported by a 1999 out-of-court settlement in which California received funds from the Universal Tobacco Settlement Act, which compensated the state for providing healthcare for cigarette users. A portion of the funds allocated to Santa Barbara County are being used by county health officials for education and prevention of tobacco use, according to county Health Educator Jan Koegler.
“We are using part of the money to educate people and try to lessen the number of people who are smoking and those who are beginning to smoke,” she said.
The anti-smoking advertising campaign is being called the “Money Campaign” because of its emphasis on the expenses associated with smoking. The campaign cites a Harvard study which states that cigarette smoking costs the average person $1,400 a year.
Shand Group Account Executive Angelique D’Ostroph said the creative concept behind the campaign is to capture the attention of young students.
“When you consider the fact that smoking costs $1,400 a year, it is a serious amount of money for young people,” she said. “We have already used TV and radio as media. We are trying to reach people between 18 and 24 years old, and Bill’s Bus is a unique way to reach that demographic. We are putting the tobacco settlement dollars to work.”
Bill’s Bus owner Tim Mesplou said the campaign emphasizes options for smokers to better spend their money.
“You choose. You can spend $1,400 on smokes or you can spend it on something else,” he said. “We are pretty excited about this campaign; it reminds us that smoking is an expensive habit.”
D’Ostroph said she hopes the campaign will register with students taking advantage of the free transportation Friday night.
“I hope that [Bill’s] Bus will draw a lot of attention. Our goal is to just get people to start thinking about the costs of smoking.”
Senior English major Tony Walker said he thinks people will definitely take advantage of the free ride, but doubts that it will have much of an effect on the smoking community.
“I like the idea of having a free ride downtown, but I don’t think the anti-smoking campaign will change anybody’s mind,” he said. “Even if the ride is paid for with tobacco settlement money, I bet half the people on board will get off and light one up.”
Bill’s Bus will be picking up passengers by Embarcadero Hall at 8:30, 9:30 and 10:30 p.m., and it will drop off passengers at the intersection of State Street and Cota Street. The bus will return to I.V. at 12, 1 and 2 a.m.