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No butts about it, cigarette litter is nasty
Keep Liberty Beautiful
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One of the most challenging elements that businesses have to grapple with in maintaining attractive venues is the cigarette litter that people dispose of in parking areas and sidewalks.  

For businesses, it is a never-ending issue. Many local businesses have to clean these areas every day to keep their businesses clean. We are taking nominations for our quarterly attractive-business honors, the Win-dex Awards. Nominations will be accepted through Tuesday, so I encourage you to nominate for your favorite attractive business. But I also encourage all smokers to give our local businesses and municipalities one of the nicest gifts of all: appropriate disposal of your cigarette litter. Just in case you have not figured it out, the ground is not an appropriate dumping site for your cigarette butts.

It is ironic. The American Legacy Foundation wrote in November 2008 that cigarette smoking in America had decreased 28 percent, but cigarette butts were the most-littered item in the U.S. and across the world. Heads up, folks — dropping cigarette butts and cigar tips on the ground, putting them in planters and disposing of them in waterways is littering!

According to Keep America Beautiful research in 2009, the overall littering rate for cigarette butts is 65 percent, and tobacco products make up 38 percent of all roadway litter in this country. Much of this nasty, unhealthy litter ends up in our waterways. How would you like to drink a big glass of cigarette-butt water? The Ocean Conservancy’s 2012 International Coastal Cleanup showed cigarette butts as the most-littered item, representing 32 percent of all items collected.

I am sure that, for a smoker, that cigarette butt or cigar tip dropped on the ground seems insignificant. But follow that butt and the billions of other ones as they are carried off by rain into storm drains and eventually to streams and rivers. That adds up to a big impact on the places we live. In fact, per KAB research, 32 percent of litter at storm drains is tobacco products. It is a serious environmental concern. About 95 percent of cigarette filters are composed of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic that  does not quickly degrade and can persist in the environment for decades.  

Litter goes through storm drains and water systems and can find its way into in local waterways. According to “Seas of Debris: A Summary of the Third International Conference on Marine Debris,” nearly 80 percent of marine debris comes from land-based sources. Cigarette-butt litter also poses a hazard to animals and marine life when they mistake filters for food.

Cigarette-butt litter that accumulates in populated areas can give a sense of lack of caring. Consistent research about litter and vandalism indicates that little things matter. Lack of care matters. The Broken Windows Theory and subsequent research in the last several decades indicates that neighborhoods and business districts need to be clean and taken care of. Smart communities know that if they fix problems when they are small, they will not escalate into bigger problems.

I think most smokers flick their litter because they are not aware about the environmental impact. They may also have an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude if there are not enough ash receptacles around. Neither of these is a sufficient reason to litter our community. We want to encourage all smokers to be “environmentally responsible smokers.” Don’t flick it! We have pocket ashtrays available for smokers who will use them. Just contact our office at Keep Liberty Beautiful by calling 880-4888 or emailing In the past decade, we have given out several thousand pocket ashtrays and car ash buckets.  We are working hard to make sure more and more receptacles are available in public areas. But ultimately, it is up to you, local smokers. Make the effort to dispose of cigarette litter and all litter responsibly in a garbage can or ash receptacle — and not on the ground!

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