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Pet peeve of mine.  Image from melissa harrell {blog}.

Pet peeve of mine. Image from melissa harrell {blog}.

You know what makes me mad? Cigarette smokers who think they can just throw their cigarette butts wherever they want.  Every time I see a driver in front of me flick a butt out the window I just want to floor it and ram them!  Seriously?  What makes these people think they are above the littering laws?  Just because it is small does not mean it is not litter!

Some facts on cigarette littering from Litterbutt.com:

  • There are over 176,000,000 pounds of discarded cigarette butts in the United States each year.
  • Over 4.5 trillion cigarettes are littered worldwide each year. They are the most littered item in the world (http://www.cigarettelitter.org).
  • Cigarettes are often littered within 10 feet of a permanent ashtray. Now that most buildings do not allow smoking inside, the problem of discarded butts on sidewalks, entryways and in courtyards is increasing.
  • Some of the costs are associated with the manpower and resources to pick up litter. Who picks up litter? Employees of parks, schools, hotels, restaurants, and local governments have to pick up litter, as well as volunteers who care about the environment. [just ask the people who have to sweep the parking lots]
  • Wind and rain often carry cigarette butts into waterways, where the toxic chemicals in the cigarette filters leak out, threatening the quality of the water and the creatures that live in it
Cigarette butts are NOT biodegradable

Cigarette butts are NOT biodegradable

So, what can we do about this problem?  Well, there are a few things you can do.

  • Get informed!  A quick google search will give you a lot of information. 
  • Talk to your smoker friends.  Many people don’t even think about cigarette butts being trash and have don’t even realize they are littering.  Tell them about the fines in your state.  Many states’ littering fines are several hundred dollars for the first offense and reach several thousand for repeated offenses.  There could be community service involved too!
  • Remind smokers that someone has to clean up those butts and its not free.  The mayor of San Francisco even proposed a $0.33 a pack tax to pay for the $11 million the city spends annually to clean up cigarette butts (NY Times).
  • Spread the word. Littering cigarette butts is not acceptable!
  • If you live in Pennsylvania, Texas, or North Carolina: report litterers on litterbutt.com.  If you do not live in these states you can send your governor a letter telling him/her to join litterbutt!
  • Call your state’s litter hotline.  In most states the offender will receive a letter in the mail indicating they were caught littering.  No fine will be administered.  Generally you just need the  license plate number, a description of the vehicle, time and location of incident, and type of litter.

Littering is littering, and it is a disgusting practice.  The issue should be non-partisan: littering costs taxpayers money, hurts the environment, and lowers the quality of our water.  So why do we stand for it?

1.14.13 Cigarettes & Boogers

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