It must be spring. I just got my first "cigarette pack" call of 1983.

The call went the way "pack" calls always go. A hesitant voice asked if it was true that you can get free "time" on a kidney dialysis machine by trading in empty cigarette packages.

"No, it isn't true," I said.

The voice asked if I was sure.

"Yes," I said, "I'm sure. Just a persistent rumor."

Well, then, the voice asked, why didn't I write a column about this hoax and warn people about it?

Sigh.

I have written about it, voice -- several times, in fact. But I guess people doubted me. Or they hoped the rumor was true.

In an effort to lay it to rest, I have called an expert witness to the dock. He is the executive director of the National Kidney Foundation. His name is Preston A. Englert Jr., and here's what he says:

"As per our discussion, I have listed the various hoaxes which have been played on the public concerning financial assistance toward hemodialysis . . . .

"The items that people believe can pay for dialysis include:

"A) Cigarette packs.

"B) The silver paper from cigarette packs.

"C) Lift-top tabs from soda cans.

"D) Coupons from Betty Crocker or other manufacturers.

"E) Universal Product Codes of different items.

"F) Used postage stamps.

"G) Grocery store receipts.

"H) Grocery store bags."

But none of these buys as much as a second of dialysis, Englert said. And neither does any other product.

"At present," Englert writes, "there are no programs of saving products for dialysis."

Let's hope that settles it. I suspect it won't, but it's spring, and hope springs eternal.