For years, we have been looking for a solution to a seemingly insoluble problem.

The problem has its origin in request for help in collecting empty cigarette packages. A well-intentioned person says he or she is saving the empties to help a sick child who will be given free time on a lung machine (or kidney machine) for each 100 packs that are collected.

Nobody who calls himself a human being can fail to be touched by that kind of appeal. The person who is asked for help joins the crusade with enthusiasm, and usually spreads the word further until everybody in his circle is collecting empty cigarette packages like mad.

There is only one thing wrong with these collections, and that is the problem of what to do with the empties that are collected.

The problem is well illustrated in a clipping sent to me by John G. Garvin of Myrtle Beach, S.C. Jack lived in Arlington for 19 years and remembers that the District Line frequently dealt with collections of empty cigarette packages. When he saw a letter to the editor of the Community Forum, he clipped it and sent it to me:

"I really need help in locating any civic organization that can use upwards of 200 pounds of empty cigarette packages," the letter said.

"These have been collected over the past year by the waitresses at The Omega Restaurant, Surfside Beach, and the waitresses at The Plantation Restaurant in Crescent Beach . . .

"The reason we collected them is that last year a man in Surfside Beach, who has since moved away from this area, had everyone collecting them for a Shrine Club project for a retarded children's group. I have contacted many Shriners and retarded groups and no one seems to know anything at all about this project, and now we have all these empty cigarette packages on hand. Can you help?"

The editor of the Community Forum published no helpful reply, so perhaps I can be of service.

It has been noted here many times that the empty cigarette package campaign is a hoax from start to finish. Anybody who doesn't believe me is welcome to call or write to the Tobacco Institute Inc., 1776 K St. NW, Washington, D.C. -- area code 202, phone number 457-4800.

The Tobacco Institute, which speaks for all the major tobacco companies, will tell you that nobody redeems empty cigarette packages for time on lung machines or kidney machines. Nobody.

However, it seems a pity to waste the millions of empty cigarette packages that have already been collected all over the country.

Perhaps we ought to forward them to the General Services Administration, which buries good desks and file cabinets in landfills so that $200 million worth of new office furniture can be purchased each year.

The cigarette empties could be used to fill the drawers of desks and file cabinets that are awaiting burial. Space is expensive in Washington, so it's a shame to see available space wasted, especially by a government that abhors waste as much as this one does.

Besides, think of the fun we'll provide for the archaeologists who dig up those landfills in the year 2979. They'll go completely bananas trying to figure out what kind of civilization existed here in 1979. POSTSCRIPT

A letter from Thomas W. Richard says, "Dear Bill: Hanging above a paper bag containing empty cigarette packages at Sav-Mor Auto Parts in Oxon Hill, I found a note that said:

"'Please put empty cigarette packs in here for a good cause. A little 9-year-old girl could use all she can get. For every 100 empty packs she collects she gets 1 free hour on a lung machine.'"

Little 9-year-old girl, you may not be real but there's a fellow down in Myrtle Beach who is, and he has 200 pounds of empties he'll be glad to send to you -- postage due. Where would you like them delivered? HELP!

This is Blood Donor Day at the National Press Club. Donors are asked to drop in between 12:30 and 6:30 p.m.

You don't have to be a member of the club to participate. Anybody between the ages of 18 and 65 is welcome and will be given a medical checkup by a Red Cross doctor to make sure it's all right for him to be a donor.

There will be door prizes, and as usual every donor will be offered a pony of good cognac -- but only after the donor's 100-proof blood has been safely bottled. TRY NOT TO CRY

Those Iranian "students" who are holding our people hostage must be the only students in the world who didn't get to go home for Christmas.