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MDG #9. A rubber in every pack of smokes.

A friend, and former colleague of mine Rod Nixon, has invented MDG #9. When it comes to inventions it must rank up there as one of the most counter intuitive, wonderfully practical, politically incorrect, unreasonable and great ideas around.  MDG #9 it will be, just wait.

Nixon and the MDG guys don’t know it yet, but I do.

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
Goal 4: Reduce child mortality rate
Goal 5: Improve maternal health
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development
Goal 9: Condoms in every packet of cigarettes

As a former PDT employee the inventor of MDG #9 should be expected to be somewhat off the mark when it comes to conventional wisdom and “accepted practice”.  His blogged his famously zany idea, “Zen and the art of condom distribution” on the Lowy Interpreter in December 2009. Its a novel approach to condom distribution in communities vulnerable to the spread of HIV. It got no where – yet.

Nixon tells us that:

Unlike programs on HIV/AIDS awareness and condom use, which can be undertaken as logistical considerations permit, the distribution of condoms must occur on a permanent, sustainable and uninterrupted basis. In an effort to address this challenge, we are seeking support for a trial implementation and evaluation of a program aimed at distributing condoms to the village kiosk and roadside stall level of HIV-vulnerable weak states using ‘companion product’ packaging.

The objective is to attach condoms, in the factory, to a range of widely consumed products distributed to the periphery of the economies of HIV-vulnerable weak states (including sub-Saharan African states, PNG and Timor-Leste) using market networks. Products being considered include soap, telephone cards, razor blades and cigarettes (pictured).

The use of tobacco products, despite their known health risks, is proposed because of the level of consumption of cigarettes and the serious nature of the epidemic. From a harm-minimisation perspective, smoking is bad, but smoking and practising unsafe sex is worse.

Distributing condoms using ‘companion product’ packaging has the potential to (a) overcome distribution challenges, thereby contributing to both HIV/AIDS prevention and family planning objectives in weak states; (b) reduce stigma associated with purchasing condoms in the village and settlement, since the purchase of the condom will be masked in the purchase of the companion product; and (c) contribute to the normalisation of condoms in the community.

Zen condom distribution

Yes smoking is bad for you.  But no its not going to go away anytime soon.  So instead of just concentrating health warnings on the pack, lets get a condom strapped to every pack.  Then hopefully strapped to every “stand up” guy that buys one.

Bill Gates tells us that – “Fewer than one in five people at greatest risk of infection have access to effective prevention programs, such as education, condom distribution, prevention of mother to child HIV transmission, and HIV testing.”

So here is a proven distribution method via something all the boys in town like to buy.  Who knows it may even curb population growth……  There is already a few billion more of us than we need on this planet.

If you need a demonstration pack drop me a line – prototypes have been manufactured at a hidden location in South East Asia.



  1. Simon Rimmele says:

    If you tape a pair of aviator sunglasses to the other side of that pack, you’d practically be selling “cool” in a box.

    Also, disease prevention is one thing, population growth quite another. As our pal Bill Easterly (somehow he comes up everywhere, pretty sure I cite him more than Jesus) mentioned in his book “The Quest for Growth”, having more kids is not an accident in large parts of Africa. It brings many benefits to the family, because with each additional mouth to feed comes another pair of hands.

  2. Edward Rees says:

    It is also not an accident that condom usage reduces pregnancy. While some women may want more children others do not…

  3. Rod Nixon says:


    Thanks for featuring this concept. And you are right that it hasn’t got anywhere yet. This is despite everything that has been written about the need for greater access to condoms in developing countries, and the lack of existing mechanisms for reliable distribution.

    There is some possibility of a small-scale trial in PNG, maybe in 2011. But what we really want to do is a substantial multi-country trial, probably experimenting with a range of different ‘companion products’. Anyone interested in seeing the proposal for this trial is welcome to contact me at

  4. shawn says:

    I think it is an interesting concept, but just because there is a large amount of tobacco consumption doesn’t mean people are buying packs of cigarettes. My experience in developing countries is that people will buy one or two cigarettes at a time from a shop that sells them individually.

  5. Simon says:

    That’s true, I mean I do know where babies come from, or don’t for that matter. If I remember right, the argument was that many an aid program that delivered truckloads of contraceptives to African countries in the 1970s and 1980s had a negligible effect on birth rates.And you’re totally right, all that doesn’t change that people should have access to birth control, and this is probably a more effective delivery device than most others.

    I’ll show myself out now…

  6. […] Some days ago I blogged about “MDG #9. A RUBBER IN EVERY PACK OF SMOKES.” […]

  7. […] MDG #9. A rubber in every pack of smokes. […]

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