Make it socially irresponsible for people to chuck their butts in public

Dropping your cigarette butt on the ground is littering … and I want it to stop.

For some reason, buttchucking (or filter-flicking) seems to be the only remaining acceptable form of littering. We would frown or comment if someone tossed their Timmy’s to-go cup on the ground in front of us, but the butts seem to drop without issue.

I think it is safe to say that we used to see a lot more blatant littering. I remember road trips where fast-food containers became extremely fast as they were tossed out the window of a moving vehicle. Aside from the truckers who still hurl their urine-filled bottles out of transport windows, we have come a long way on the littering front, so much so that we should be able to get people to quit flicking their filters.

I’m tired of watching an arm protrude from the car window in front of me, only to see the driver or passenger nonchalantly drop their still-smoking butt on the ground. This aggravates me even more at a stop light, where I seriously consider getting out of my car, picking up the butt, and handing it back to them, saying, “Pardon me, I think you dropped something.”

To the butt-chuckers, I have to ask, why you drop your butts? Are you not thinking about it — the impact on the environment or on others? Are you too lazy to find a garbage can? Or more simply, is it just that you think that small litter is not real litter? If that is the case, please note that the size of the litter does not really change the offence; whether you drop a full garbage bag along the highway, or flick a cigarette from your car window, you are littering.

Even worse than the out the single-butt-out-the-window-drop, one day I saw someone turn all the butts from his car ashtray onto the ground in a parking lot before pulling out of the spot. I was dumbfounded.

The nicotine crime scene around building entrances is also a huge pet peeve of mine. I am disgusted at the irony when the eight-metre radius around the doors entering the community sports centre is littered with butts. There they all lie; yellow filters, white filters, lipstick-ringed filters, and filters with long ashes attached (meaning that person didn’t even bother to stomp out the butt) all in the same eight-metre radius in which smoking is prohibited.

As much as the butts seem to be part of this and other concrete jungle urban-scapes, I really want to scream when filters are strewn about in the wild and along nature trails. Worse than simply damaging a visual landscape, flicked cigarette butts here can also cause much more harm than typical litter.

Forest fires have been caused by careless butt-chuckers. When driving along a highway or country road, where you may not know if a region’s risk of forest fire is high or not, I can only ask that you use those little ashtrays in your vehicle instead of potentially destroying hectares of oxygen creating plant-life (you may miss that oxygen one day).

Seeing the butts in nature, I feel compelled to pick them up (as do many young children) because they are so out of place. I shouldn’t have to leave a nature trail with fingers smelling of nicotine, potentially harbouring viruses and bacteria from saliva-rimmed filters. Nature-loving smokers need to remember the old adage “pack it in, pack it out” and reflect that their cigarette pack should all come out of the bush, no butts about it.

If you must drop your used filters, do it on your own driveway or in your backyard, but I should warn you, house fires have been caused by carelessly flicked filters that roll under a front step and eventually ignite the whole house.

We made it socially irresponsible for people to drink and drive, so I believe that if we band together, we can make buttchucking equally frowned upon.

Join me in saying, “You dropped something.” In addition, buildings and parking lots should make sure they have more ashtrays. Perhaps a company could market a small airtight tin to butt-out cigarettes that is easily pocketable.

Or, my daughter’s solution is even easier — just don’t smoke.

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