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Cigarette litter: This time, will smokers get it?

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on May 30, 2009 at 7:15 am |
May 30, 2009 7:15 am

Metro Parks has been mulling over a plan to ban smoking in Tacoma’s parks. The proponents’ chief gripe is that smokers are a bad example to kids.

My chief gripe is that so many smokers are habitual, casual, who-gives-a-@%#* litterers. The world is their ash tray.

Not all smokers are guilty, by any means, but the galactic magnitude of cigarette trash out there – butts, packages, matches, etc. – proves that a lot of them think nothing of foisting the dregs of their addiction off on the public.

Ultimate gross-out: Getting out of your car in a parking lot and discovering you’ve stepped onto a small mountain of butts somebody dumped on the pavement from their ashtray. Horsewhipping would be too kind a punishment.

The backlash has arrived, and not just at Metro Parks. The New York Times on Friday reported that municipalities all over are banning smoking from beaches, playgrounds and other public spaces.

San Francisco’s mayor is proposing a 33-cents-a-pack tax to pay for the $11 million the city estimates it spends cleaning up cigarette litter every year. One San Francisco smoker didn’t help her cause when she told The New York Times, "It is satisfying to just toss it down when you are done."

The statistics are truly amazing.

Keep America Beautiful, an organization that compiles reports from community cleanups around the country, says tobacco garbage accounts for a third of all litter in the country.

The Washington Department of Ecology estimates that 480 million butts a year get thrown on this state’s roadways every years.

Then there’s the whole toxic pollution issue. Cigarette filters – non-biodegradable, by the way – exist to trap nicotine and other poisons in the smoke. The filters get washed into waterways, eaten by birds and otherwise inflicted on the poor, cringing ecosystem.

I won’t get into the wild fire issue. OK, I just did.

Smokers (the irresponsible ones, who are legion) never got wise to the secondhand smoke thing until they got knocked upside the head with some good stiff laws.

Maybe they’ll figure out, all on their own, how much their littering annoys people. Or (as I suspect) is that too much to ask?

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