No doubt, “rewards” and cigarette butts” are words that you don't normally find appearing together in the same sentence.

Rewards and cigarettes butts, however, are at the very heart of an “interactive smoke pole” concept from Dutch/Turkish design firm Ioglo that applauds smokers who properly dispose of their spent Marlboro Light butts in lieu of flicking them into the street. And by applaud, we mean that the bleeping, buzzing receptacle in question puts on a little song and dance routine. A thank you, if you will, for not partaking in one of the most damaging, prevalent, and unfortunately, socially acceptable, forms of littering.

Dubbed Fumo, this flashy cigarette butt bin that’s kind of like a hybrid between a street lamp and a slot machine does nothing to actually discourage smoking. But that’s not really the point.

Unlike blatantly dumping the remains of your take-out lunch all over a city sidewalk like a complete animal, tossing a non-biodegradable butt to the curb isn’t gone to raise any eyebrows. It's the norm. And therein lies the problem. Given that smokers are generally not reprimanded for using the street as one giant ashtray, there’s nothing stopping them from doing it. But what if they were given a celebratory pat on the back for refraining from the act, an act — more of a knee-jerk impulse, really — that many smokers don’t even think twice about? Would they be inclined to knock it off and think about their actions?

Explains Ioglo:

Fumo is the first smoking pole that addresses the problem the other way around; why shouldn’t we give smokers a reward instead of punishing them? Why shouldn’t we add fun in order to change people’s behavior for the better? Fumo rewards smokers by giving them a short audiovisual show consisting of various types of audio (music, jingles, sounds, voices) and visuals created by lights, dancing as an equalizer on the music.

As explained by Designboom, each time that a smoker inserts a spent butt into one of Flumo’s ultrasonic sensor-equipped slots, an “energetic tune” kicks in for 5 to 10 seconds. Accompanying the song is a choreographed light show performed by the 56 colored LEDS lining the unit. There are a total of 50 different sound bites that play at random, ranging from a “joyous gospel choir” to Homer Simpson’s trademark “d’oh!”

Now all that’s missing is the sound of someone wheezing and hacking up a lung.

Fumo was designed with public urban spaces very much in mind — areas where smokers congregate or pass through and are likely to ugly-up the surrounding streetscape after they’ll had their last drag. Elaborates Raymond Reints of Ioglo: “Each Fumo is hand-crafted, creating an opportunity of becoming a platform, optimized for each context. Following iterations can be designed differently, making Fumo suitable for parks, shopping malls, cinemas, train stations, theme parks or even hospitals."

As someone who has had to pluck an errant cigarette butt from between my bare toes after taking a dip in the ocean on more than one occasion, I’m also thinking that public beaches would also be a primo spot to install a Fumo unit, particularly considering the massively damaging effect that these toxic little nubbins have on marine life.

Over at Gizmodo, Alissa Walker comes off as a touch severe (“Smokers should be publicly shamed, not given an arcade game for their pack-a-day habit”) with her assessment of Fumo.

I like what Ioglo are on to here — because really, what good is villainizing someone who steps upside for a puff on their lunch break going to do anyone? It's the habit that's bad, not the person. And while impossible to effectively contain the scourge of tobacco-based litter found on city streets, helping to keep a specific area a bit less noticeably butt-y with a bit of good, old-fashioned entertainment is a-okay in my book.

Any thoughts?

Via [Wired], [Designboom] via [Gizmodo]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

A cigarette butt receptacle that rewards non-litterers with an audiovisual treat
Fumo is a eager-to-please butt disposal bin that puts on a snazzy show for smokers who opt not to sully the environment by littering.