2 BILLION cigarette butts hit the ground every day.  Our world has become one big ashtray and I’m pissed off.

I recently spent an hour sweeping up butts around one (yes, only one)  bench in the small park near my house – see photo.  A big smelly pile of butt garbage just a few feet away from a garbage can.  It seems most smokers do not think butts are actually garbage.  People who normally would not ‘litter’ just toss their butts out the car window or flick them on the ground.

I cringe at every film scene that uses this casual act of littering to  punctuate an emotion or segue to another scene.  It is so common to see that it now actually seems normal, o.k., harmless.  Far from true.

The city I live in finally made it illegal to smoke inside most buildings so now everyone smokes outdoors but no genius has realized it might be a good idea to have ashtrays outside for the many butts which litter the doorways, lawns, sidewalks, gutters all over the city.  People smoke outside bars, restaurants, coffee shops – I think it should be the responsibility of those businesses to provide disposals and to clean up the ground.  It’s their customers, their business.  C’mon.

Yes, I do talk to smokers when I see them throw their butt on the ground and I ask them to please ‘pick it up’.  As you can imagine sometimes that works, sometimes not.   It’s bad enough that non-smokers have to take a deep breath and run the smelly gauntlet when entering public buildings; it’s worse when we have to deal with the remains of this dirty habit.  A few times I’ve actually seen someone open their car door, dump a full ashtray on the ground and drive away.  Another proud human moment.

The butts are not only ugly and filthy – they are a huge environmental hazard.  News Flash – butts are NOT biodegradable.  NOT.  They may seem small and harmless but guess what they contain – tar, arsenic, vinyl chloride, acetone, mercury, lead, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide.  Butts can take up to 15 years to disintegrate and when they do, they release all their poisons into the ground.  Those that get into storm drains end up in our rivers, lakes, and oceans where fish mistake them for food.  Birds use them for nesting material and pets think they are treats.  All deadly mistakes.


Talk to smokers. Ask communities to provide disposals. Beg businesses to act responsibly. Sweep them up. Someone may be watching and who knows, they may get it and actually change.

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