11.21.2012 12:27 PM

Cigarette smokers are vile

I knew that would get your attention.

In the linked column, Chris touches on something the media have been raising increasingly, in recent days: cigarette butts being tossed everywhere. They’re most of the litter you see, now.

My question is this: why don’t we ticket people for tossing cigarette butts in the way that we ticket other littering?

Shouldn’t we?


  1. Mom says:

    Watched a guy in a fancy Audi toss one on the road today just in front of us and wondered how many butts hit the road now that most cars don’t have ash trays. Funny, even with our windows rolled up the smoke made it into our car. I suppose this is one of the last refuges of smokers to smoke alone in your car, but what about the butts??? From someone who grew up when both parents smoked in a car full of kids, absent seat belts of course, we have made SOME progress.

    • Peter says:

      Funny, even with our windows rolled up the smoke made it into our car.

      Sure it did. Or maybe that was smoke from the guy you couldn’t see smoking outside the building that went under the bus in front of you and then went through your exhaust pipe into the car and took a month off everybody’s life expectancy. We really have to do something about these people.

      • Jen says:

        No, it’s true – it does. I used to think that was bullshit too, but I can smell people smoking in the car ahead of me from time to time. If the smog isn’t worse, the cigarette smell gets through. Weird.

  2. Tim says:

    Littering laws in cities are generally not enforced whether it be cigarette butts or anything else. I think the image that comes to mind with littering is tossing a bag out of a car window. Most small scale littering is just somebody leaving a cup or a pop bottle on a window sill or an empty bag of chips in a park. Nobody would face a ticket for such a thing. Throwing cigarette butts on the street is a social norm, though probably decreasingly so. Lots of city’s used to have public ashtrays, sometimes integrated into garbage cans. You don’t really want smokers tossing butts in trash cans (even if they think they’re extinguished), so it’s a bit of a quandary I suppose. I agree that cigarette butts should be considered litter. I think you’d have to ease into fines with a warning period, but you should also start enforcing littering laws as a whole. This all said, I kind of like litter. I know it’s weird, but I live in Montreal, and in some places we have a lot of it. When I live in or visit cities that are a little too pristine and clean it can almost feel stuffy, like a city with no edge.

  3. Stephen says:

    I think they should be ticketed. It’s odd that a lot of smokers wouldn’t normally litter, but will throw their butts on the ground without a second thought.

    I’ve seen only two smokers hold onto their cigarette butts until they found a garbage to toss them into.

  4. TimL says:

    Start with the butt tossers, and then move on to ticketing people who spit on the sidewalk. (gag).

  5. Reality.Bites says:

    Really not sure that tossing cigarette butts in garbage cans is a better idea than littering. I’ve seen some that provide a separate container for butts.

    I don’t smoke (anymore), but if I did, I’d never put a butt anywhere that isn’t designated for them, which would mean I’d have to litter.

  6. Np says:

    They look terrible and are eye-sores. No doubt. But they are also bio-degradable. Let’s put this in perspective. As a non smoker, (yet an occasional cigar smoker, I will admit) I hate seeing them on the ground as they look like what they are. Litter. But if someone tosses a butt out of their cars as they drive, it does not bother me in the least. They get tossed to the road side and washed away. Ticketing smokers for tossing a butt? Seriously? They are not the worst things to happen to a city. I’d say chewing gum and protesters are much worse.

    • Leah says:

      Cigarette butts aren’t biodegradable. They’re largely made from cellulose acetate, which is a form of plastic.

      • Elizabeth says:

        I think they’re also a source of pollution; and like spitting on the street – can carry TB germs. Not sure though – have to check that.

        • Leah says:

          Cigarettes also contain all kinds of nasty chemicals that really can’t be good for waterways. Suddenly my smoking habit is even grosser than ever.

        • Reality.Bites says:

          Health Canada – TB is not as contagious as other diseases, such as the flu or chickenpox. To get infected, you would usually have to spend many hours every day with someone with infectious TB disease. If you live in overcrowded housing with poor air circulation, you may be more at risk of getting latent TB infection.

      • Np says:

        I’ve been told on good authority (by a chemical engineer working on his doctoral thesis) that they are in fact Bio-degradable. He’s had this argument and won it several times. Look it up. I’m not saying toss them in your garden as plant food, but they will indeed bio-degrade.

    • Jen says:

      My issues with butt tossing out the window are the brush fires more so than the litter. Where I live, things are tinder dry along the roadside at a certain time in the year. People have lost homes because of brush fires around here. Throwing a butt out the window is just unsafe. Fine them.

  7. Harith says:

    Like with all other things, it wouldn’t be enforced enough to matter.

    You’re not supposed to smoke on open-air train platforms but that doesn’t stop anybody.

  8. Leah says:

    In Edmonton you can be ticketed $250 for throwing a butt on the ground. The City helpfully installed street ashtrays all over downtown and Whyte Ave. Has the number of butts on the ground gone down? I’m guessing yes because those ashtrays are often full.

  9. Matt says:

    I lived in Japan for a year and a half (teaching English after my under-grad and avoiding real life for a bit) and there they sell and everyone who smokes uses a portable ashtray. Kind of weird and quirky, but as most (guys in-particular) seem to smoke and there aren’t butts anywhere it also works. An idea.

  10. Monica says:

    It baffles me whenever I see anything thrown out when I have never tossed anything to the road in my life. How did these people get taught so differently from me? The garbage cans are everywhere and if not, take it home and throw it out. Whether it be Tim Horton’s cups or cigarette butts, there’s a special place for it. Use it! If your mother didn’t teach you that, your common sense should have.

  11. MoS says:

    As an old school motorcyclist (here on the island I can ride year round) I have a special thing about smokers in cars. There’s something about a butt tossed out a car window and sailing straight for your head that gets under your skin. What’s worse is when we get our standard 2-3 month summer drought and the forests turn tinder dry. There are plenty of places here where those forests are just a few yards away from the shoulder of the road. Three or four times I’ve seen brush fires by the roadside caused by jettisoned ciggie butts. Fortunately the crews are very quick to respond before they can spread into the trees. The cops are pretty good about ticketing drivers for tossing butts out the window. It gets some tourists mad but the locals are behind it.

  12. dave says:

    Oh, c’mon…human beings are persons too, just like business corporations, and if business corporations, especially fossil fuel corporations, can park their garbage in the public domain, surely human beings can too.
    Or are you people wanting to set up a two tier apartheid kind of deal, with one rule for corporate persons, and another for human persons?

  13. Bluegreenblogger says:

    Lol, I once worked on a campaign with a pretty radical green. She shamed me when I threw a butt on the ground, and she tore a strip off me. She was right, and I learnt the lesson well. I shake the heater and stinky tobacco residue out of the end of the butt, and put the butt in a plastic bag in my pocket if there is no garbage can handy. The habit stuck since the 2004 election. Recently I was in Russia, and was constantly getting comments from Russians who noted the crazy Canadian so carefully disposing of his butts. On the way to the airport, a Russian friend gave me a gaft of a wee little portable ashtray to carry in my pocket, with a lid that seals shut. Awesome!

  14. Kelly says:

    In Singapore one may get whipped with a rattan cane for littering, spitting, graffiti, etc. Just sayin’.

    • Jen says:

      In Singapore, I accidentally forgot about the spitting and spat when I was out for a run(inconspicuously, only when I feel like I absolutely must and not in front of anyone, as I usual do). I remembered the “spit at your own peril” thing as my spit was heading to the ground. The fear of caning it provoked in me cause me to shave a good 10 minutes off my time. Also, holding spit when you are on a long run is a kind of training in and of itself.

  15. ottawacon says:

    Funny, just haven’t thought about it much since Oda left..

  16. Oh my gosh….where do you people live???!!

  17. Jamie Elmhirst says:

    The best way to combat littering of any kind is to create a product stewardship program. Recycling programs for pop cans were originally developed to combat littering. Put a 10 cent per butt recycling fee on every cigarette. Make retailers who sell cigarettes take the butts back (disgusting I know, but serves them right).

    This way smokers pay to clean up littler. There are lot’s of folks who will still throw their butts in the streets, but a legion of folks will pick them up and return them for a refund. Ever see a pop can lying in the street? Not for long.

    Human nature is pretty simple to figure out. Take something valueless and give it a value. No more litter.

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