Chilean miners persuade authorities to send in cigarettes

When the movie comes to be made, it may be the moment to rival Humphrey Bogart lighting up a cigarette in Casablanca or Lauren Bacall asking for a match in To Have and Have Not.

Trapped for more than a month in a remote Chilean mine, some of the 33 miners who have grabbed the world’s attention have been crying out for the right to smoke. After weeks of badgering, they have finally persuaded authorities to send them cigarettes down a supply tube.

The group will receive two packets a day, the governor of Atacama region, Ximena Matas, told reporters over the weekend. “We have sent a number of cigarettes … to a person who will distribute them, and there should be no difficulties,” Matas said.

The men, discovered alive on August 22, 17 days after their mine collapsed, have been receiving food, liquids, letters and equipment down the tubes (known as pigeons) but authorities refused repeated requests for tobacco, saying it would pollute the air in the refuge.

Chewing gum and nicotine patches
The miners made do with chewing gum and nicotine patches but several reported withdrawal symptoms and others just pined for a break from a dreary, cramped routine 700m below the earth’s surface.

Nasa scientists at the scene reportedly advised against allowing the miners to smoke, but officials relented after rescuers improved ventilation with a versatile plastic tube.

“We are not going to give a pack of cigarettes, but rather a limited amount,” said Jorge Diaz, a doctor on the rescue team. “Regardless of how good the ventilation system is now, they are still trapped, and ventilation cannot be optimal. These are responsible people and we believe the doses that we deliver will be administered well,” he said.

The miners have become national heroes and book and movie deals about their ordeal are already being made. For tobacco companies chafing at advertising restrictions it could be a promotional dream, though it was not immediately known which brand was delivered, nor how many of the miners smoke.

Their rescue is expected to take at least two more months. Engineers have drilled two separate shafts, each to a depth of about 260m. Both drills have broken in recent days. One has been fixed but the other may be beyond repair. A third, more powerful drill is being assembled.

Some of the miners, meanwhile, are badgering the authorities for another special delivery: alcohol. –

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