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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 with 12 Comments »
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?

Taking notice
Leave a comment Comments → 12
  1. ratujack says:

    O’Calahan you are such a lightweight. What about candy paper covers and paper coke cups etc etc. You have an agenda here!!!!

  2. I agree with this blog 100%. I carry a baggie with me and plastic gloves to pick up litter on the trails when I go hiking or walking in parks. I do not pick up butts or I would never get to walk. Some smokers are ignorant of the non-biodegradable nature of the filters, but most are just careless. We learned to field strip butts in the Army; the tobacco and paper are biodegradeable. The filters were stowed away for proper disposal later.

    I’d hate to see alll smokers saddled with big taxes on top of the high taxes they pay already, but all of us in society pay huge $ amounts for litter control, 90% of it smoking trash, and in other ways for the damage to our ecology. If education and enforcement of litter laws don’t work, then add a huge fee to their habit.

  3. f722380 says:

    HEY, while your at it, can be ban public expositions by horny couples, and your undisciplined little kids ?

  4. I guess if you are too lazy to get off your dead rear end and find something newsworthy you can always sit at your desk and google up some stats and write about a hot button topic…

    And for people that agree 100% with the blog they should at least read it in the first place!
    “…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…” A third is not 90%!!!

  5. govwatcher says:

    Very rarely do I endorse tax increases…

    However, in this case, as O’Callahan correctly observed, the problem of cigarette litter is disgusting in our parks.

    I would support an additional cigarette tax dedicated to the clean up of parks.

    There is no excuse for cigarette litter. ANYWHERE !

  6. f722380, it’s not undisciplined little kids that bother me. It’s the brain dead teenagers and young adults that trash our parks that tick me off.

    Bob, A third is a lot of trash.

    While the park district is at it, maybe we should confine dogs to a dog park, since their owners don’t seem to be able to pick up their pet feces.

  7. Oh one more thing, bicyclists who seem to think traffic laws don’t apply to them.

    And bicyclists who share the sidewalk with pedestrians, but don’t have the common courtesy to warn folks that they are coming up behind them.

    Come on bicyclists! Pull your head out of your fannies or you’ll be next.

  8. bobbysangelwife says:

    You know….the litter, the picking up after your pooch—ALL of this stuff boils down to one thing really. And it’s so dang simple it’s not even funny. It boils down to your personal ethics. Amazing isn’t it???
    For instance, I was raised–by my parents mind you–to pick up after yourself. Whether it is a piece of paper that escapes your hand from school or the mailbox. If you drop something, you pick it up and put it in the trash.
    If you break it, you fix it or find someone who can fix it for you.
    If you have a dog and it poops off your property, you pick it up.

    It all boils down to personal ethics…what a concept, right??? As a smoker AND a pet owner, I have NEVER flicked my butt out the window, left my dog poop, or littered. Why? Because I was taught as a child to pick up after myself, take personal responsibility for my self, my actions, my pets, my children.
    And this has ZERO to do with city, state, county, country ordinances, Keeping America Green, so-called global warming, or any other campaign. It is simply how I was raised to be–a good, simple, clean person.

  9. As a two and a half pack a day smoker I’m sure I must have been a litterer and for that I am sorry. I gave up the habit when the price got to the intolerable amount of $.35 a pack. Now, only 25% of the population smokes and the higher you raise the price the lower the percentage will get. Is that a good thing? There is a down side. The longer people live the heavier the burden on health care costs. There are actually politicians who consider the consequences of a non smoking population. That should tell you how sick our society has become,

  10. In response to your editorial of June 2: "Will smokers get it?"

    You and others of your ilk sure must live a pristine life in that ivory tower.

    Every time I come back home from out of state travel, I am embarrassed by the amount of trash on our state’s highways. But what I see, are tons of beer and water bottles, soda cans, paper, cardboard and fast food leftovers. Rarely do I see tobacco related products.

    Don’t even attempt to mislead us by saying that cigarettes, etc make up one third of the trash on our highways—certainly not in volume.

    The 480 million butts thrown on the ground in Washington every year, according to the State Dept. of Ecology, are cigarette with filters. Yes, they should be put in ashtrays or garbage.

    Of the businesses that furnish ashtrays outside their establishments as a courtesy to smokers and the general public, how many of you elite non smokers use these ashtrays for a garbage can? Cigarettes cause fires every day. Don’t YOU get it?

    The medical field was convinced that smoking and cancer were linked as early as 1954 and when the Surgeon General’s Report was released in 1964 the tobacco companies came up with the idea of filters. Not only to quiet the medical profession, but to increase their profits by people buying and smoking more light cigarettes.

    The percentage of Americans smoking was over forty percent in 1965 vs. today’s rate of about twenty one percent.

    Guess who the majority of voters were that got on the bandwagon and supported the lobbyists and politicians that agreed to let tobacco companies ram non-biodegradable filters down everyone’s throat. That’s right—non smokers!

    You attempted to lessen the demeaning aura of your editorial by stating that, "Not all smokers are guilty, by any means….", but then go on to use demeaning and snotty comments.

    So why don’t you rant and rave at the tobacco companies to come up with a biodegradable filter. I’m sure the politicians and lobbyists would love to hear from you about that.

    Instead of taking advantage of your position in our community by writing a snotty, demeaning editorial and by making misleading comments, why don’t you use your superior knowledge and the vast expertise of your newspaper to lessen the problem by doing something positive?

    Support the idea of convicts cleaning up our roads as several other states do?
    Support a change to biodegradable filters.
    Suggest the state require all vehicles to have a litter bag when getting their emissions check.
    Support enforcement of the state litter laws.

    Oh, and just one other thing. Matches are used by a very small percentage of smokers. Or maybe you don’t know about cigarette lighters yet.

  11. papasan says:

    I can’t believe that some of you are actually saying that the smokers have a right to litter since the butt is smaller than a refrigerator or smaller than a tire. wallg actually complains about litter on the roadway but implies that the butts are ok because he can’t see them!!
    Come on, people. I smoked for 30+ years and I also spent time in the Army on “Police Call” picking up butts. It’s about courtesy. What bobbysangelwife called “taking responsibility”. Unfortunately, laws are designed for those that choose NOT to be responsible. If smokers wish to continue their habit, they will have to start policing themselves and clean up after those that mess up.

  12. Papasan,

    You are totally right. It should all be about courtesy
    Did you hear any in his editorial?

    I said, “Yes, they (the butts) should be put in ashtrays or garbage."
    Read what I said. Not what you want to hear out of my comments.

    This particular editorial just inflames the issue. I’m sure that if a smoker saw Mr. O’Callahan walking down the street, they would be sorely tempted to blow smoke in his face, due to his tirade. This is not the first time The Tacoma News Tribune has allowed one of their editorial writers to rant and rave about their own personal vendettas.
    A newspaper needs to act a little more responsible. Don’t throw gas on a fire when water is available.
    Courtesy along with truthful and honest reporting would go a long way in this case.

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