npr edvertisers
visitors movie times

Santa Barbara Weather: 52.3°F | Humidity: 98% | Pressure: 30.13in (Rising) | Conditions: Light Rain | Wind Direction: ESE | Wind Speed: 0.0mph [see map]

Free Newsletter
  login You create the news! Send items of interest to ed@edhat.com
    17827 Subscribers
      526 Paid (3.0%)
     70 Commenters
     95950 Page Views

Buy Edhat Shirts
Buy Edhat Shirts
Buy Edhat Bags
Buy Edhat Bags
Advertise on Edhat
Advertise on Edhat
Buy Edhat Hats
Buy Edhat Hats
News Events Referrals Deals Classifieds Comments About

more articles like this

Ciggy Butts
updated: Sep 12, 2008, 12:00 AM

Thoughts From the Garden of Ed

Ciggy Butts
by Billy Goodnick

Ciggy Butts
Edo, ergo dinumero. That's Latin for "I Ed, therefore I count." Okay, probably not what Descartes would have come up with, but he didn't have a free translation website to help him. Ed counts palm trees, ladies wearing open-toed shoes, and out-of-town license plates. On last Saturday's morning neighborhood walk (from Chapala and Islay to Cottage Hospital and back), Biff the Wonder Spaniel and I counted discarded food containers (6), used diapers (2, ew!), beer cans (7) and moldy slices of bread (4). This proves my theory that just because we all walk upright, we're not all of the same species.

Biff and I have very different taste (and we never discuss religion). I cringe at his attraction to a three-day-old tire-flattened meatloaf in the gutter. He's curious about dead bird carcasses. Me? Not so much.

But we do agree in our revulsion for the thousands of cigarette butts we encounter on a typical walk. That's not quite right - I'm revolted; he just ignores them. Good thing most dogs find the taste so offensive because a small dog could get seriously sick or die from ingesting a few toxic butts.

There's a house about three doors down from us where some college age guys live. I don't know if their rental agreement prohibits smoking, or they would just rather sit out in the fresh air while (this isn't going to make any sense) they suck in a little arsenic, vinyl chloride, hydrogen cyanide, acetone, mercury, lead and carbon monoxide. It would appear from the piles of butts in the grassy parkway that once they finish, it's a quick flick of the forefinger and then it's someone else's problem. I gave up counting when I reached 120 butts in a 20 ft. by 5 ft. area.

Here's my problem. There is nothing about a used cigarette butt tossed on the ground that exempts it from being classified as trash. I don't want to smell them, see them, step on them, or have neighborhood kids playing with them. I don't want them finding their way into storm drains, into creeks, having their toxic payload leach into the water, and then washing up on the beach. You smoked it, you evidently enjoyed it, and then you left it for someone else to deal with.

What makes smokers think that their pleasure-giving habit (we're talking relatively short-term) immunizes them from the responsibility of cleaning up after themselves?

I want to believe that most of the smokers who deliberately throw their cigarettes down don't have the same attitude about a gum wrapper or the cigarette's packaging. Of course there are always exception, but smokers aren't necessarily bad people - perhaps there's just something about a spent cigarette that makes them want to distance themselves from the detritus. How else do you account for the 176 million pounds of butts discarded in the United States in one year (Surfrider Foundation). That's the weight of about 400 Statues of Liberty. [Note regarding the preceding sentence - it's a journalistic device to take a huge abstract number that people can't fathom, and relate it to something we all connect with. I learned that from watching Carl Sagan.] Worldwide, the tonnage increases to a whopping 1.69 billion pounds. One more statistic and I'll move on. 1.1 billion smokers worldwide consumed 5.5 trillion cigarettes in 2004. I wonder what percentage was considerately disposed of?

"That's okay, it's just cotton and it's biodegradable," offers the environmentally conscious smoker.

Well, wouldn't that be nice? Actually, the typical cigarette filter is composed of 12,000 strands of a synthetic plastic called cellulose acetate. Ignoring the toxic compounds that leach out of them, filters are emphatically not biodegradable. They do eventually break down, taking between two and fifteen years, depending on where they end up. But, they do not revert to harmless natural compounds. They just turn to powdered cellulose acetate, flowing to the ocean, leaching into ground water, or rising as dust in the wind (cool name for a tune!).

Hey, this isn't just me wanking. I stopped by the Phillip Morris website and even they have a page that tries to get their customers to reduce the environmental impacts and the visual blight caused by ciggy butts. Call me cynical, but my guess was that it's part of a class action settlement.

I used to smoke. I'd go for a few months or a year, then decide I was done, go cold turkey, and not think about it again for a year or more. I must have missed out on my dad's three pack a day gene. My point is, I'm not beating up on all smokers - just the unconscious, inconsiderate, knuckle-draggers.

I'm not asking you to give up smoking, just to consider that it shouldn't impact anyone else, or our planet. Figure out some way to safely extinguish the hot tip and give the remains a respectful final resting place.

I don't mind. Biff and I will amuse ourselves looking for day-old meatloaf.

# # # #

Billy Goodnick is a nice guy who knows a lot about plants and garden stuff.


# # # #

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 BECKY agree helpful negative off topic

2008-09-12 08:27 AM

Thank you! I'm printing it and putting it in my store window (old town Goleta). I spend 20-30 minutes/week cleaning up sidewalks and gutters in front of my store from other people's trash. A huge amount of it is cig butts. I've put up "it all flows to the ocean" signs. I've put out a cig butt receptacle (which was stolen). I've spoken to some of the worst offenders.

The assault is relentless, and it's disgusting. Pick up after yourself! I learned that in kindergarten. Did these slobs miss that lesson?


 COMMENT 14538 agree helpful negative off topic

2008-09-12 08:28 AM

Thank you for writing and posting this. The belief that cigarette butts don't qualify as litter boggles my mind. When did that become acceptable practice?? I've started calling out the people that do this.


 COMMENT 14545 agree helpful negative off topic

2008-09-12 09:06 AM

"What makes smokers think that their pleasure-giving habit (we're talking relatively short-term) immunizes them from the responsibility of cleaning up after themselves?"

They don't think that, these are just lazy and dirty people who happen to smoke. If they didn't throw a butt down on the ground, they'd throw down a plastic grocery bag or empty beer bottle. Smokers I know don't throw their butts down. Let's not stereotype.


 COMMENT 14547 agree helpful negative off topic

2008-09-12 09:18 AM

hey-I smoke,and I'm a gardener, and I never throw butts on the ground. Let alone the fire hazard. On the other hand, If anyone spits in my yard, they're gone. What makes it ok to spit on the street? Baseball players?


 COMMENT 14567 agree helpful negative off topic

2008-09-12 11:15 AM

Hey folks - read for detail. I'm in no way implying that all smokers are guilty. I'm just calling out the ones who toss their butts and cause the blight.

Let's keep the conversation going (and civil)


 COMMENT 14569 agree helpful negative off topic

2008-09-12 11:26 AM

Right on brother. On a walk from Turnpike to 154 3 or 4 years ago, in the spirit of Ed's interminable propensity for counting, I decided to count butts which lie directly in the path of my walk, before my feet if you will. In the narrow, approx. 2 ft wide swath in the one mile, there were over 400, if I recall correctly. Disgusting.

That said, penetrating the nicotine induced self involved, focus tunnel euphoria that smokers inhabit after a fix is next to impossible, and stimulating their awareness about this issue unlikely.

Sadly, I am afraid the only solution will be to pursue legal action the originators of this waste, once again, class action against the cigarette producers.

Naive perhaps, but maybe the threat of this could get them to improve their product to deal with this?


 COMMENT 14571 agree helpful negative off topic

2008-09-12 11:55 AM

just curious, what's the best way to dispose of butts? Trash, aka landfill?


 COMMENT 14574 agree helpful negative off topic

2008-09-12 12:38 PM

Yes, trash/landfill is better than thrown on the ground to end up in the ocean via storm drains...

I suppose cigarette manufacturers could be prevailed on to create biodegradable filters. Or would that cut into their profits too much? That would still not solve the issue of the toxins which concentrate in the filter after a cigarette is smoked...


 COMMENT 14577 agree helpful negative off topic

2008-09-12 12:45 PM

We can't put batteries or paint in a landfill, they get recycled or disposed of as hazardous waste, right? Can we do the same for cig butts? How about a smoker gets a penny for every returned butt for recycling like a soda can?


 BONNER agree helpful negative off topic

2008-09-12 03:14 PM

Camel and Marlborough butts are tossed all over our neighborhood, the typical start-up cigarettes for teens. but what's even more annoying is the dog poop not picked up, even though we installed four (that's 4) doggie stations in our relatively small community. Much is done under darkness so what does that say about knowing you are not being responsible! C'mon! dog walkers, be good citizens too!


 COMMENT 14587 agree helpful negative off topic

2008-09-12 06:14 PM

Hear Hear!! Hooray for Billy Goodnick and this article! And Bonner's comment too. I have a HUGE problem with people who don't clean up after themselves and their dogs. I also hate it when smokers throw the still lit butts out the window at night, it always freaks me out for a second. Unfortunately this article is probably like preaching to the choir. The offenders might not ever see this. But thanks anyway!


 COMMENT 14588 agree helpful negative off topic

2008-09-12 06:14 PM

... I meant throw their still lit butts out of their CAR window...


 COMMENT 14589 agree helpful negative off topic

2008-09-12 07:23 PM

the san diego chapter of surfriders created a successful campaign against cig butt littering. they even had a toll-free "hold on to your butt" hotline to report "butt flickers". we should have something like that. http://www.surfridersd.org/hotyb.php


 COMMENT 14595 agree helpful negative off topic

2008-09-13 09:45 AM

Add this to the litany of sins that people commit on a daily basis that fall into the "weren't you ever taught any better?" category: talking during movies and concerts, not using turn signals, not picking up your dog doo, yakking on cellphones anywhere anytime, etc etc etc. It's enough to make you a misanthropic hermit, I'll tell ya what! ;-)

I'm serious about the annoyances... I'm just trying to learn to get over my righteous indignation sometimes because I suspect I'm never going to correct the behavior of the Bulgarians.


 COMMENT 14599 agree helpful negative off topic

2008-09-13 12:55 PM

I feel ur pain on the ciggy issue dude. I was traumatized as a young military man when a person in authority ordered me to police up the parade grounds prior to an official ceremony. He ordered me to pick up the butts by hand and put them in my pocket and then ordered the rest of my squad to grab a seat and watch!!! Needless to say I HATE cigs now (oh, him too). Basically what this comes down to is some peoples lack of consideration for others. We've all been held hostage and subjected to the inapropriate cell phone call. And many other disgusting situations. Who was it that said "people are stupid"?


 COMMENT 14602 agree helpful negative off topic

2008-09-13 05:47 PM

Right on to all comments given! It's all of these "annoyances" that add up to a wasteful, careless society.

Butts aside, the smell of the nasty buggers alone is bad enough. Just walk down State Street (for example), at any given time of the day, and rather than the scent of flowers or local restaurants preparing meals being in the air, we get blasted with the horrific smell of cigs! Not to mention the unbearably disgusting habit of guys spitting (no, gobbing!) on sidewalks (where we were just about to step no less ~ really, how did this EVER become acceptable behavior?), dog poo, movie yakkers, cell phone yakkers (yellers rather), pedestrians not waiting for walk lights to change, drivers not waiting for red lights to change, or worse, running yellow and/or red lights, and one of my favorite pet peeves, people who don't move out of the way on a sidewalk! People would rather walk into you than divert from their direct path. What's up with that? Are people zoned in on being the only one who matters that there is no common courtesy anymore?

Thankfully (or not) Santa Barbara does not have the distinction of being the only place in the world to offer up rude behavior on every corner. This is a global issue and it's getting progressively worse with each generation! Maybe it's time to start handing out tickets to people who litter (including noise pollution you yakkers) or spit on the ground??!!


13% of comments on this page were made by Edhat Community Members.



Add Your Comments

Edhat Username



Don't have an Account?

Don't know if you have an account?

Don't remember your account info?


ENJOY HAPPY HOUR! ... Between 4:00pm & 5:00pm only happy comment are allowed on the Edhat Comments Board.

If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all.

Hide Your Handle, but show paid status (paid subscribers only)
NEW - use verified name and picture (contact ed@edhat.com to be verified)
Find out About Becoming A Paid Subscriber
NOTE: We are testing a new Comment Preview Page. You must hit OK on the next page to have your comment go live. Send Feedback to ed@edhat.com.

get a handle   |  lost handle




  See more articles like this

# # # #


Send To a Friend
Your Email
Friend's Email

Top of Page | Old News Archives | Printer-Friendly Page

  Home Subscribe FAQ Jobs Contact copyright © 2003-2015  
Edhat, Inc.