Do you smoke? If so, are you a dick? [updated]

And now, an actual RANT, with SCIENCE!®

Is this YOUR legacy?

Is this YOUR legacy?

One of my pet peeves is people who just toss their cigarette butts around with no consideration for the public weal, the environment, or their own basic human integrity.

I’ve been known to toss smoldering butts back into car windows, or to politely return a butt to a smoker afoot with a comment along the lines of, “Hey, you dropped this. Figured it was an accident ’cause you look like you have more class than those assholes who just toss butts on the ground.”

People respond either belligerently or sheepishly, depending on whether they give a damn about anything outside of themselves or whether they at least don’t want people to think they’re trashy.

I’m sure some of you reading this are smokers. Some of you are smokers and also friends, maybe even good friends. If you’re my friend and a smoker, rest assured that I’m very concerned about your health (though I’ll never broach the subject, since you’re not an idiot and know it’s bad for you). And I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt that you toss your coffin nail remnants into an ashtray or bin where they belong, rather than treating the world as your goddamned ashtray. I think well of you, and just assume you’re better than that.

It’s not just a matter of litter, as ugly as the scattered constellations of dirty cigarette butts in the street, or in a park, or just along the highway, are. It’s actually bad for the environment. Really bad.

A doctor once told me that a single cigarette butt contains enough nicotine to kill an infant. And now this is in the news:

One of the most common forms of litter are cigarette butts.  Once these butts enter waterways, they become toxic to fish.  According to a new study by San Diego Sate University (SDSU), filter-tipped cigarette butts are deadly to marine and freshwater fish.  In fact, researchers would like to have the butts classified as hazardous waste.

Cigarette butts are not biodegradable. The filters are made up of 12,000 plastic-like cellulose acetate fibers that trap nicotine and tar.  There’s enough nicotine trapped in 200 used cigarette filters to kill a human!   An estimated 1.69 billion pounds of butts are littered each year worldwide, so you can imagine the negative effects these butts have on aquatic life when they wash into streams and oceans.

SDSU Public Health Professor Tom Novotny explains, “It is toxic at rather low concentrations. Even one butt in a liter of water can kill the fish in a period of 96 hours…”

Professor Novotny continues: “When they unconsciously throw their butts onto the ground, it’s not just litter, it’s a toxic hazardous waste product, and that’s what we’re trying to say. So that may be regulated at the local or state level. And we hope people will be more conscious about what they do with these cigarette butts.” [Source: “Cigarette Butts Kill Fish According to New Study,” Blue Living Ideas]

There’s also this article from KPBS at San Diego State University, and likely a bunch more.

So, if you smoke, keep this stuff in mind. You can smell bad if you like, but please don’t be a dick.

UPDATE: A very good friend who’s a vet tells me “One single cigarette butt consumed can kill a dog or a cat according to the National Animal Poison Control Center – nasty !!”

So just think, worst case scenario, a single butt you throw on the ground could kill a dog, a cat, or a baby. Nice work, kemosabe.

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