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Is That Your Butt in My Nose?
updated: Sep 01, 2012, 11:30 AM

By Billy Goodnick

Well, that was fun! Last time I posted at Edhat, I was getting my kvetch on about bushes, trash cans and cars blocking the sidewalk. Out of the near- record breaking number of comments that rant received, the overwhelming sentiment was, “You tell, ‘em, Billy”, and couple of dissenters accusing me of “obsessive-compulsive baloney.”

Since I’m on such a roll, you’re probably wondering what else gets my rhinestone encrusted, leatherette thong in a bunch? That would have to be smokers who think it’s alright to dispose of their vile cancer sticks in the very same right-of-way (and private property) I wrote about last time.

And since I’m up to my eyebrows writing a book and can’t devote the time to a fresh perspective, I’m recycling this timeless Edhat piece I wrote way back in 2008, when my family was forging west in our Conestoga wagon.

I’m putting in my mouth guard, switching my undies to an athletic cup. Enjoy.


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, 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. 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. You suck in more ways than one.

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 on NOVA from 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 lawfully 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 is that their brush with responsibility is part of a class action settlement.

I used to smoke. I’d puff for a few months or a year, then decide I was done, go cold turkey and not think about it again for a few years. 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 your habit 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 sniffing the bushes for day-old meatloaf.

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

 BECKY agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-01 12:05 PM

This is one of my hottest, hot button issues. If you created the trash, then you should responsibly dispose of it. To do otherwise is the height of rude and inconsiderate. I am beyond tired of picking up your cigarette butts, your kids diapers, your discarded fast food and candy wrappers. Pick up after yourself! It's a basic lesson that I'm sure your Mom tried to teach you. It's past time that you started being considerate and responsible. DISPOSE OF IT YOURSELF, RESPONSIBLY.


 COMMENT 314940 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-01 12:18 PM

I agree with Billy. I do roadside trash pick up monthly and our crew can barely put a dent in the amount of cig. butts that are thrown out on to our roadsides. It is especially bad at intersections where smokers/drivers have a few extra seconds to dump their collections. Gross.

Maybe Edhat could have a new rule. If someone cares enough to post an entry to begin a constructive dialog to come up with solutions to what they see as a problem, maybe those with opposite opinions could just read it and move on. Save your psychoanalysis and criticism of the writers. Maybe those that disagree could just start their own thread. Like 'I really like all those cigarette butts that litter our sidewalks, beaches, and streets' and those that agree with you can write in support.


 COMMENT 314942 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-01 12:26 PM

Heheh.... I can't believe someone would actually defend those who toss their baby's &#it out the car window in the same breath as defending smokers' right to pollute and dispose of their trash with the expectation that the butler or mom is following close behind with a mop. Another product of helicopter parenting and one who has not been educated about the litter bug campaigns of the 60's and 70's or hasn't been abroad to see how quickly a country can turn into a pigsty when trash disposal is not a concern. Beautiful days become marred in filth if you let them.


 COMMENT 314963 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-01 01:51 PM

935 is a smoker and a litter bug from the sound of it.


 BILLY GOODNICK agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-01 02:33 PM

Hey, where'd the wanker go? We had a comment here earlier taking me to task for getting upset about people throwing their cigarettes (and something about baby diapers) out in public. Perhaps they actually read what I wrote, thought about it (imagine that), and decided to retract. Damn! I like when someone puts a nice, juicy target out there for everyone else to swing at.

Aha! I'm looking at the Edhat Board Nanny and seeing that staff pulled the comment. But if you want, you can scroll down and read TWO deleted "contributors".

It was fodder for my next rant -- an education system where people who don't comprehend what they've read deciding to go off half-cocked and flaunt their misunderstanding anyway.

(Now hoping the Edhat Nanny doesn't send THIS comment to the detention room.)


 COMMENT 314984 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-01 02:35 PM

You could always do what I do, which is to ask people nicely to pick up their cigarette butts. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

One time, while enjoying my Yogurtland yogurt, and sitting outside the theatre across the street from Yogurtland, I watched the three young male employees have their smoke fest, drop their cigarette butts on the ground, grind out the butts and walk back into the theatre lobby.

I finished my dessert, went into the lobby and told the one guy I would tell his boss about the butts, if they didn't pick them up. He went right out and cleaned them up. I bet they never did that again.

Best thing would be to pass legislation (oh, no! more laws!) to accompany this illegal trash disposal with a sizable fine. Drop a cigarette butt, pay $100. Then, when we see car drivers dumping their ashtrays, we can call it in, and expect enforcement.


 COMMENT 314994P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-01 03:06 PM

I have to agree with the person who said, don't like the litter, pick it up. Yeah, it's disgusting but one makes one's choices. Where I live, about a half block from an elementary school, I know school has begun again by the daily litter in front of my house and around the school perimeter where I walk my dog. It's disgusting and it seems to me that the school has a responsibility to not only teach but to teach with practice.

Instead, the school not caring about the neighborhood (no wonder, I sometimes think, their test scores are so low) I pick up the trash in front of my house and sometimes further afield. I draw the line, though, at picking up all the trash I see in our walks, especially those who walk large dogs and leave the poop in the parkways. So, I can pick it up, ignore it, see it, do nothing and get angry, disrespect those who so disrespect our mutual environment.... Cigarette butts are the least of the problems.


 COMMENT 315016 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-01 04:35 PM

I spent $20 at HIC for a pair of trash tongs. Band-aids, poop bags,no problem, it all goes into the trash bag now. I used to smoke, so figure I am still picking up my own butts, just doing it retroactively. I still b!%(# about trash, but it feels good to pick it up instead of whining.


 COMMENT 315036P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-01 06:37 PM

Be grateful there aren't hypodermic syringes littering the streets as is seen in some cities.


 COMMENT 315037 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-01 06:37 PM

I do hate finding any type of trash in public places. While driving, I really hate seeing people (?) throwing butts out their windows. It's like they feel they have a sense of entitlement and no sense of personal responsibility. One time, while riding my bike down State Street, an idiot threw his butt out the window. I picked it up and tossed it back in the window and said " I think you dropped this." I hope it landed in his lap.


 COMMENT 315038P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-01 06:38 PM

Cigarrettes might eventually decompose - now embedded chewing gum, ......


 COMMENT 315154 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-02 09:12 AM

There is an aspect of this disgusting and unhealthy habit that has not been mentioned--the potential fire danger from burning cigarettes tossed out of car windows. I was going to mention from hikers along trails as well but luckily most smokers are not fit enough to do much hiking, so they confine their littering to urban areas and from moving vehicles. It would be interesting to have some estimates on the number of fires started by burning cigarette butts. A pox on them all.


 COMMENT 315159 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-02 09:36 AM

I am a smoker and I have NEVER thrown a butt on the ground. My friends don't either. I have a container for that purpose. I am a gardener and I live in fire-prone california. On the other hand I am mortally offended by people spitting everywhere. I had someone spit in my garden and I threw him out. Disgusting.


 COMMENT 315162P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-02 09:39 AM

Can't we make smokers pay a deposit on their butts at the time of purchase?

If the smoker won't take care of their litter, at least there would be an incentive for someone else to do it, and be paid for it.


 COMMENT 315176 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-02 09:55 AM

Lots of speculation and personal opinion by the original poster. I find the education system sad when it turns people into hall monitors and curmudgeons and makes them hate alternative or opposing opinions

If litter is your real concern then volunteer, educate - playing armchair quarterback and complaining needlessly does little to help the original problem.


 COMMENT 315193 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-02 10:31 AM

"well but luckily most smokers are not fit enough to do much hiking"

Really, do you have a statistic to back that up with?


 COMMENT 315210 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-02 11:23 AM

Smokers think the whole world is their ashtray. They are so oblivious to the effect of their sick addiction on others. And similarly oblivious to what their butts do to the environment, beaches, storm drains, etc. To the extent their butts break up (which is not much), that is just more chemicals being added to the pollutants already in the air. Every complainer to Goodnick's article is a smoker who will defend themselves to the death - which they are well in the world to accomplishing.


 MTNDRIVER agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-02 11:39 AM

I have a friend who has walked every street in town (like the UHs) and he carried a bag and picked up every butt he saw. Thousands and thousands, of course. He kept track of the count.

Sometimes I carry a plastic bag on walks and pick up trash, but not usually butts, too gross for me. Maybe those trash tongs 016 mentioned would make it more palatable. Are they heavy?


 COMMENT 315254 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-02 01:04 PM

Thanks MTNDRIVER. I too pick up trash on walks. I hate litter. Your friends was going the extra mile to even do cig butts. That's commendable.

@210- "Every complainer to Goodnick's article is a smoker who will defend themselves to the death - which they are well in the world to accomplishing"

Not really 210. I don't smoke. Funny though you assume all smokers litter. I think there are bad apples in every group who contribute to litter.

I think litter is the overall issue. Reaching beyond the litter issue is your own carbon footprint - everyone should take a look at that as well. But if you want to point out people who smoke that's your vendetta I suppose and oh well.


 COMMENT 315264 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-02 01:54 PM

One thing nobody has mentioned yet is that cigarette smokers are addicts. They cannot stop, most of them, because they are addicted to nicotine. There is social stigma and shame to be dealt with when one is addicted, and most addicts are more self-centered than most non-addicts, so they tend to try to get away with things (like littering) more than other people do. We might try to have compassion for these addicts, because many of them are truly helpless over their drug of choice. We might also try to stop the "right" of the tobacco corporations to advertise and even to sell their products. Take away the supply line and many people will have to find a way to quit, which is doable with help. Let's take all the tobacco company employees and put them to work in the treatment centers and this country will be a lot healthier in 10 years.


 CORKY agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-02 02:42 PM

I walk Old Town Goleta every two weeks, with another volunteer and we pick up tons of trash, but mostly cigarette butts. They are the worst where the bus benches are. Occasionally a diaper, and Qtips, but the butts are hard to pick up with the pickers and get wedged in sidewalk cracks.


 CORKY agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-02 02:43 PM

I walk Old Town Goleta every two weeks, with another volunteer and we pick up tons of trash, but mostly cigarette butts. They are the worst where the bus benches are. Occasionally a diaper, and Qtips, but the butts are hard to pick up with the pickers and get wedged in sidewalk cracks.


 COMMENT 315298 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-02 03:09 PM

Billy you certainly have the majority on your side and with you 100%.

We will all be more aware and maybe even contact the landlord of apt. buildings or areas where this is an issue. If they can't get the offenders to pick up the butts they may need to put a cigaret dispenser in the area. We may need more dispensers in the downtown area. I don't think those cigarets should be thrown in the trash bins they might start a fire.

159 I think you and your friends may be the exception, but thanks for being responsible. Agree with you about people who spit in public places....YUCK!


 COMMENT 315302 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-02 03:17 PM

Billy, your last two blog posts have been pretty negative social commentary. Would really like to see you get back to the good landscaping and posts. There's so much beautiful landscaping in town. Continue to enlighten us and educate us on these topics please.


 COMMENT 315329 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-02 04:30 PM

Got in on this kind of late, but I hope all of you who pick up trash see this, because I want to send you all a huge THANK YOU!

Here I thought I was so alone. I pick up all kinds of styrofoam and plastic and other junk off the streets, usually on my walks to town and back. Every little bit helps.

THANKS AGAIN to everyone who cares enough to pick up. And now let's all let our City Council know we need recycling bins/cans at every shopping area. Such as Five Points, La Cumbre Plaza and Loreto Plaza. What a disgrace that there is nowhere to put recyclables at these (and more) locations!


 COMMENT 315347 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-02 05:43 PM

Wanting to not be subjected to the grossness of other peoples' contaminated trash littering the otherwise beautiful SB landscape, is a POSITIVE statement, not a negative one, as some posters would have it.

Stop making excuses for unacceptable, and anti-social behavior please. Our community was a much more pleasant one in which to live, when community members took much greater pride in our "jewel by the sea".

If you can't appreciate SB enough to see the need for people to treat our town with greater respect, please don't feel anyone is keeping you here against your wishes.


 COMMENT 315359 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-02 06:34 PM

Cigarette butts and overall littering should lessen now the tourist season is almost over. Those people come into town and really don't care how they mess it up. They fog up with the freeway and make it difficult to get around town. Keep it local.


 BILLY GOODNICK agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-03 11:23 AM

If you think MY take on cigarettes is too hardline, here's what Craig Allen is proposing at Noozhawk -- a total ban on smoking in the city of SB. http://www.noozhawk.com/article/090212_craig_allen_its_tim


 COMMENT 315656 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-09-03 03:40 PM

Craig wears clown shoes.


 COMMENT 364840 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-18 10:35 AM

Wow. That's some rant about trash that on average measures about 1/4 inch in circumference by 1 1/2 inches. The deadline pressure must have really gotten to you. You have my sympathies.

Surely you've heard the expression don't sweat the small stuff and this, literally and figuratively, is small stuff.

Granted, 120 butts in a 20 ft. by 5 ft. area is crazypants. I'd be pret-ty darned irked about it, too.

But, it's small stuff compared to the beer bottles and cans, the plastic water bottles, and the rest of the undegradeable trash I (and others) pick up from our beaches, trails, and streets on a daily basis.

Yet I see no rant against beer-drinkers, plastic-water-bottle drinkers, consumers of fast food, etc., etc.

People are people. Some are responsible, some aren't.


33% of comments on this page were made by Edhat Community Members.


*** 2 comments were deleted from this thread by the Edhat Board Nanny for violating Edhat Comments Board policy. Click Here to see them.


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