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Friday, December 02, 2005 

Give A Hoot

I'm going to use today's entry to rant about one of my biggest pet peeves - people throwing cigarette butts on the ground. What are you people thinking?! People who would never consider littering find it perfectly acceptable to flick a cigarette butt onto the sidewalk or out their car window. I don't get it. Is it a momentary brain lapse? Do you not know that cigarette butts are the world's number one source of litter? That's right, 2.1 billion pounds of cigarette butts were discarded worldwide in 1998.

Cigarette butts are made not from cotton, but from acetate, a form of plastic. A petrochemical! How do you think that affects the environment, people, and animals? Well, let me tell you.

It takes an average of 13 years for a cigarette butt to degrade. 13 years in which they are out there to be ingested by children, birds, fish, whales, sea turtles, and dozens of other marine animals. Cigarette butts have been found in the stomachs of dozens of creatures. It only takes 1 to 3 butts to make a toddler seriously ill. Can you imagine the affect it would have on smaller animals like birds? Death is among one of the answers. They are a toxic threat to all living organisms!

If that doesn't get you, then let's talk about the economic impact of discarded cigarette butts. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent annually to clean up cigarette litter. Millions of dollars are lost annually to fires started by casually discarded cigarette butts. Virginia Commonwealth University experienced it's largest fire ever last year when still smoldering cigarette butts, along with other trash, were tossed down a trash chute. Twenty-six buildings were lost costing the university over 20 million dollars - 20 million dollars in taxes paid by the citizens of Virginia. That doesn't even include the cost of extinguishing the fire (200 fire fighters were on the scene).

As you can see, there are lots of reasons for people to rethink their smoking habits. I've had friends who were conscientious about extinguishing their butts and discarding them in appropriate receptacles. It becomes second nature after a while. Companies even make pocket ashtrays now which are a perfect way to be responsible when throwing away butts. Just pop 'em in the ashtray, and then dump it in a trash can later after the butts have had time to fully extinguish. If you are a smoker, or have a friend who is - consider buying a pocket ashtray for the holidays. It's the kind of gift that keeps on giving for years to come.

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