I’d like to disagree with one aspect of Godzilla’s comment to my blog about cigarette butts. While I agree that smokers use the world as a giant ash tray I don’t believe they think about it at all. I believe smokers tossing butts is a reflex, a non-thinking habit.
Let me recount a short story that took place two days after I took the photos of cigarette butts.
I was walking down the Boulevard. As I walked past the smoke shop, a young man stepped outside of the shop and threw a butt onto the sidewalk. When he realized he had almost hit with the butt, he apologized. I stopped and for a moment looked at the butt and the smoke still curling from its lit end. Then I turned to the young man and asked him if he ever thought about the consequences of throwing butts into the street; no he hadn’t. I described to him as best I could in a few short sentences the negative impact billions of cigarette butts have on the environment. After he picked up his discarded butt, I asked him to make an effort not to throw butts into the street anymore. I also asked him make the same request of his smoking friends. After the conversation we introduced ourselves and shook hands.
I don’t know if our conversation will have any effect on the young man’s habit of tossing butts. Neither do I know whether he will encourage his smoking friends to stop tossing butts. But I do know that for the brief span of our conversation, a smoker and a non-smoker found enough common ground to discuss the topic of cigarette litter calmly and without anger or accusations.
Smokers are not aliens or evil people. Smokers are our friends, our family members and our co-workers; they can be reasoned with. If non-smokers engage smokers in conversations similar to the one I had with that young man, I believe the number of cigarette butts tossed into our beaches, rivers, sidewalks, streets and parks would decrease dramatically. As long as non-smokers passively accept the ugliness and negative environmental impact of discarded butts, non-smokers bear some responsibility for butts in the street.
Finally, if you think cigarette butts aren’t that big of a problem, San Francisco spends $44 million annually picking up litter, and the mayor’s office says $10.7 million of that is attributable to cigarette butts. (Source: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/cityinsider/detail?entry_id=40346)