University of Virginia employes in Charlottesville gathered thousands of empty cigarette packages in hope of securing a Seeing Eye dog for a blind girl in Northern Virginia.

But no sooner had they attempted to trade in the packages with a Richmond tobacco manufacturer than they were told their efforts were in vain.

The company, Philip Morris Inc. does not redeem cigarette packages for gifts, said Robert Bateman, community relations director for the firm. "It's a rather sad thing," he said. "These rumors have a way of surfacing every couple of years and the Seeing Eye dog version isn't new."

A similar hoax in Norfolk resulted in thousands of people there saving wrappers from a Philip Morris product in hopes of securing medical equipment, he said.

The Charlottesville collection effort was begun by a university employe who organized university workers in an effort to secure a guide dog for an unidentified Alexandria girl. A university spokesman said yesterday he could not locate the workers responsible for the campaign.

The Associated Press reported that a university supervisor had noted the cigarette packages around a worker's desk and had questioned the effort. The questions led to the discovery of the hoax, the AP said.

"I certainly don't plan to keep these things (the packages) any longer," one university worker said. "I just feel sick about the whole thing."