An Exercise in Imagination: Butts and Revenge

Is my title confusing enough?  This post is dedicated to a fantasy, a day dream that I have often.  The following narrative has not happened, yet.

I am in my car at a red light.  The baby is playing contentedly with his toys, no peeps to be heard.  I have my radio tuned to Alt nation on Sirius to relive the days of my youth.  The car next to me happens to be a gas guzzling Hummer that is chromed out, and a man is smoking a cigarette and blowing smoke out of his open window.  Next thing I see is the man flicking his cigarette butt out of his window.  I watch helplessly as the butt hits the asphalt.

SF Considers Fee On Cigarettes To Offset Cost Of Cleaning Them Off Streets

This time, I am going to do something about it.   I put my car in neutral and yank the parking brake.  I make sure to leave the door open so I don’t lock my baby in the car.  Hoping the light doesn’t change yet I run over to the still smoking butt and pick it up.  Nasty stub in hand I go to the Hummer with the open window.  “Did you drop something?”  I ask him in as brave a voice as I can muster.  Then, I hand the man, who looks too shocked to respond, the smoking butt.  Leaving him with his mouth agape, I strut back to my car just in time to hop in before the light turns green. This was my fantasy.  Oh how I wish that I could do this.  I can’t tell you how many times I have sat at a red light only to see some jerk tossing his finished cigarette on the ground.  I fume in my car, imagining myself confronting them.  I visualize the satisfaction of putting them in their place while cleaning up the litter that they just threw on the ground.  I have even thought of keeping a discarded butt in my car in case I didn’t have time to pick one up.  I could simply take one and meet them at the next light and ask, “Did you forget something?”  Ahhh how I wish I could do this. The fact is, I don’t have the balls.  And, I can’t leave my baby in the car just to put someone in their place.  I don’t get to drive alone often, so that isn’t an option.  I did find a petition to sign which is asking cigarette manufacturers to add “Please dispose of butts properly” on the back of packages.   Do I think this will end all roadside litter?  No!  But I think anything to help remind smokers that their butts belong in the trash is better than nothing.  Even better, I have found that in South Africa there is a hot line dedicated to reporting smokers who discard their butts from their car.  Witnesses can take down the license plate number and report them to the hotline.  They can be fined if reported numerous times.  I looked desperately for a US or NY State equivalent but I found nothing.  If there is anyone who has knowledge of how to rally for a similar program please let me know!  Cigarette butt

Here are a few facts about butts:

  • It is estimated that several trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide every year. That’s billions of cigarettes flicked, one at a time, on our sidewalks, beaches, nature trails, gardens, and other public places every single day. In fact, cigarettes are the most littered item in America and the world. Cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate tow, NOT COTTON, and they can take decades to degrade. Not only does cigarette litter ruin even the most picturesque setting, but the toxic residue in cigarette filters is damaging to the environment, and littered butts cause numerous fires every year, some of them fatal.
  • According to the American Burn Association, about 900 people in the United States die each year in fires started by cigarettes, and about 2,500 are injured. About 100 of the fire deaths each year are children and nonsmokers. Nationally, annual human and property costs of fires caused by careless smoking total about $6 billion. In 1997, there were more than 130,000 cigarette related fires.
  • Most cigarette filters are composed of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic. The white fibers you see in a cigarette filter are NOT cotton, but a plastic that can persist in the environment as long as other forms of plastic.
  • It can take up to 28 years for a cigarette butt to break down.
  • Cigarette butts have been found in the stomachs of fish, whales, birds and other marine animals which leads to ingestion of hazardous chemicals and digestive blockages.
  • Almost 1 in 3 cigarette butts ends up as litter.

***Facts taken from:

Supereco.com

Cigarettelitter.org

Blisstree.com

Longwood.edu

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  • Meg

    Great post.
    This drives me nuts too. My youngest is still (and I see no end in sight) in the phase where he picks up everything off the ground and wants to stick it in his mouth. Butts are no different, in fact, I think that because he doesn’t see them often around our neighborhood (thank goodness) he is more intrigued with them when he does see them.
    My dream is not so different then yours. I dream that someday smoking in parking lots and outside of buildings will be banned. Or at least have the butt out containers moved a decent distance (15 feet is not enough!) from the entrances where I am struggling to juggle one kid, a purse and hold the hand of a dawdling toddler. 15 feet does not keep our slow moving parade of chaos out of the drifting smoke. 15 feet only makes it possible for the smoker to ruin my babies lungs with out the responsibility of being courteous and holding the door open for me!
    .-= Meg´s last blog ..Contributing Contributor =-.

  • O. M. G. I don’t smoke . My MIL does. she drives me crazy because when she is visiting she will stand on my back porch and throw her buts in my backyard. Does she think that they just melt away? Hello my kids play in the back yard. Im always picking up buts and throwing them away. My husband and I don’t smoke, but I’ve actually bought her a ashtray so she would stop throwing them. She still throws them ughhhh!!!!

  • UGH. HUGE pet peeve of mine. Why are there butts all around the playground equipment?? And in the sand at the beach?? My almost 3 year old is even frustrated by the litter, and I have to stop him from touching them to throw them away!
    .-= Tracey´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday- Caught in the Act =-.

  • If anyone ever came to my house and threw butts in my yard, they would never be welcome there again… MIL or not!! Seriously?!??!?!?! I do have the cojones to get out and do what you dream about, but I don’t think it is going to do a bit of good. It’s not like they don’t KNOW they are littering. They just don’t care. I’m sorry to whomever I offend, but most people who smoke are selfish enough to think that the smoking only affects them. I wish they would WAKE UP!! Smoking outdoors does not stop innocent (or really angry) people like me and my kids from breathing that disgusting crap. I, personally, am allergic to smoke and cannot stand it, if you couldn’t already tell. It burns my throat and instantly makes my nose swell up so I can only breathe through my mouth. I can even smell the nastiness when someone is smoking INSIDE the car driving in front of me. Yeah, really, and no, I’m not pregnant- then it gets really ridiculous. Smokers need to realize it affects EVERYONE around, not just the smoker. Sure, everyone has their vices, and to each his own, yada yada. But what I want to know is why does their “right” to inhale a drug trump out me and my children’s right to breathe and not inhale known carcinogens???? Why are these disgusting things even legal??? They are as unhealthy/addictive as marijuana and many other drugs (in addition to the other issues you mentioned above). It’s all about the politics and money, of course. I hope the taxes on them keep going up and up. They should take that tax money and fund the public healthcare system or our schools. Funny how the economy is terrible, yet tobacco companies are still rolling in the mulah. Ugh!!
    .-= Jennifer B´s last blog ..Why are people such boobs about boobs? =-.

  • i totally agree w/ you – this drives me crazy!! I can’t stand to see anyone litter (cigarette butts and anything else they may toss out their window). Like you, I could never confront anyone either – but i wish I could.