Stop it, buttheads!

Press Secretary with the California Legislature

Pardon the pun, but I am burned up with the careless disregard for the environment and public safety exhibited by many cigarette smokers. I am talking about smokers who recklessly toss their lit and unlit cigarette butts onto our nation’s roads. Like nicotine addiction, this is done habitually—almost subconsciously.

But this is certainly not a subliminal or subtle act. This inconsiderate action is most obvious and its consequences can range from environmental and aesthetic desecration to personal danger.

Tossing an unlit cigarette butt out a car window is littering—no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Most of us would think twice before littering. However, it seems to be commonplace for many smokers to litter our planet with cigarette butts. By saying these people are “only littering” with cigarette butts excuses their reckless behavior. This is like saying “He only shot her one time, not five times—plus he only shot her in the leg.” Litter is litter is litter.

What happens when the discarded cigarette is lit? With our soaring temperatures this summer, throwing a lit cigarette onto the ground is tantamount to going to a field and setting it ablaze. The casual act of tossing a lit cigarette, even onto pavement, can spark a fire.

I don’t want to say that this careless littering is a “mindless” act. While it may be as habitual as singing in the car, singing will not do harm (unless one is a bad singer or becomes distracted). There is a purposeful act of intent to roll down a window and throw a lit or unlit cigarette out.

Of course, many cigarette smokers claim that they toss this lit cigarette out the car window because they do not like to put ashes in their ashtray or they object to the smell of disposed cigarettes in their cars. Well, here is a shock—ashtrays are for ashes.

My purpose is not to draw a causal link between cigarette smoking/smokers and littering. Not all smokers litter nor do all people who litter smoke. Smoke if you must—and you probably must due to its addictive qualities. But if you do smoke, do so, as with anything, responsibly and considerately. Be aware of nature’s bounty. Do not threaten the safety of others by being a catalyst to starting a fire. If common sense and courtesy do not act as incentives, perhaps law enforcement needs to better crack down on these smokers who litter, and substantially increase the fines.