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The Problems Cigarette Smokers Cause By Littering Butts and Cigarette Packaging

Casey has a Ph.D. in Sociology and 15 years of experience in academia.

Cigarette Smokers Are Large Sources of Littering

I was horrified the other day when I let my daughter play outside only to have her find an old cigarette butt on the ground and try to eat it. My little toddler is at a stage when she puts everything in her mouth. Before having a kid I never thought much about the litter smokers leave behind. These days I really find it annoying and inconsiderate when people smoke cigarettes then throw them to the ground and abandon the leftovers when they are done.

You'll find countless articles about the dangers of smoking cigarettes, second hand smoke, and people annoyed by the smell of cigarettes who want to stop people from smoking in certain places. What you don't hear about are people complaining about the litter smokers make.

My husband and I have several different handymen who we sometimes hire to help us work on our house. It's an old house that needs lots of repairs and we need handymen to help us at times. Pretty much all of our handymen smoke cigarettes. I don't mind that they take smoke breaks as long as they do their work. What I do mind is how they leave behind litter every time they smoke. My yard now has cigarette butts all over.

My toddler found this gem...

A cigarette box a worker left on my property in the yard where my child plays.

A cigarette box a worker left on my property in the yard where my child plays.

Cigarettes As Litter Are Harmful to Children and Animals

In a public place you never know who your litter could impact. If you go to the park, it is easy to find cigarette butts around benches and tables. This isn't good because little children play at the park. Young ones can easily pick them up. Babies and toddlers who tend to put objects and their hands in their mouths can put cigarette butts in their mouth or may play with them and get residue on their hands.

When left in public places near where animals live, cigarettes can impact their habitat. Animals could potentially eat them. Cigarettes are made with ingredients that can pollute environments that are aquatic like lakes, rivers, and ponds. They can release chemicals into the water which can hurt fish, birds, and other animals.

Handyman Leftovers

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One Million Cigarette Butts

Have you ever heard the story of the "Butt Lady?" One woman in Alabama dedicated her time to picking up cigarette butts. Over a period of three and a half years she picked up a million cigarette butts in the city where she lives. She picked them up on her daily walks for exercise. Her work managed to influence the city of Auburn to install containers for smokers to throw their butts in outside of bars (Pham 2018).

This story highlights a very big problem. One woman picked up a million cigarette butts in one city. Can you imagine how many cigarette butts are thrown to the ground all over the United States?

The Butt Lady Interview

"Almost three-quarters (74.1%) of smokers reported littering their cigarette butts at one point in their lifetime by disposing of them on the ground or throwing them out of a car window." (Rath, Rubenstein, Curry, Shank, and Cartwright 2012)

According to research, cigarette filters don't decompose very easily because of the ingredients used to make them. When dropped on the ground they just sit there and don't rot (Rath, Rubenstein, Curry, Shank, and Cartwright 2012).

Watching our handymen smoke, it was normal behavior for them to finish a cigarette then drop their butts to the ground. They moved on with their day and their litter was left on the ground forgotten. To me that behavior is very sad and inconsiderate. I see them doing this and I automatically worry about my kid picking one up. When I think I've picked them all up, I find one another one hidden in the grass or my toddler picks on up on her adventures outside.

If you smoke cigarettes you should think about what you do with your litter and make sure you dispose of it properly. Be mindful and don't mindlessly trow your trash on the ground and never think of it again. You never know if a child or animal will be impacted by the trash you leave behind.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2020 Casey White

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