Saturday, July 23, 2011

Should smokers’ rights supersede the environment?

[caption id="attachment_7147" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Cigarette Butts on the beach at Mosquito Lake"][/caption]

Samantha Torrence - As the war on smoking continues many smokers express their frustration at the perceived attack on their rights. However, the voices of many smokers fall on the deaf ears of those who find their environment compromised by the unsociable habits that many smokers have picked up. Should smokers expect the sympathy and support of the public when they continue to smoke in public areas and discard their cigarette butts on sidewalks, beaches, and parks?

In Trumbull County Ohio citizens are still battling to keep their parks and cities clean. This holds true even at parks that are maintenanced by local governments. This week the Heat Dome that baked the country settled over the Youngstown/Warren area and brought people out of their homes to the local watering holes. Mosquito Lake State Park saw its beach filled with people trying to keep cool in the lake.

Cigarette butts were strewn everywhere from the shaded picnic areas to the beach itself and even in the water. A group of strangers seemed to find solidarity in their disgust and wondered why people would ruin the beach area and who was supposed to clean it up? Some even wondered how much of the cigarette litter ended up in the lake. All the while in a picnic table near by a gentleman was smoking a sweet smelling cigar that wafted about and looked uncomfortable as he heard the conversation.

[caption id="attachment_7149" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Kids at the Beach"][/caption]

Mosquito Lake is one the largest manmade lakes in the world. The damming of the Mosquito Creek
to create the lake was finished in 1944 with the purpose of provide drinking water to local areas.  The oversight
of the recreational facilities was contracted to the Army Corps of Engineers in 1946.

Cigarette litter is a problem worldwide and is a catalyst for the creation of (CLO).

The website states:
It is estimated that several trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide every year. That's billions of cigarettes flicked, one at a time, on our sidewalks, beaches, nature trails, gardens, and other public places every single day. In fact, cigarettes are the most littered item in America and the world. Cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate tow, NOT COTTON, and they can take decades to degrade. Not only does cigarette litter ruin even the most picturesque setting, but the toxic residue in cigarette filters is damaging to the environment, and littered butts cause numerous fires every year, some of them fatal.

CigaretteLitter.Org is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to running educational campaigns aimed at significantly reducing the amount of cigarette litter. Most people who litter their cigarettes either don't fully understand the consequences of their actions or they have rationalized the behavior. This web site and our other educational efforts are designed to get the facts out about cigarette litter to both smokers and non-smokers. Once people know the truth, they will be much more hesitant to unthinkingly flick their cigarette butts on the ground.

CLO’s assessment of the behavior of smokers is the crux to solving the problem of cigarette litter. Do smokers not realize how harmful their litter is or do they attempt to justify their actions?  For smokers who do not already properly dispose of their cigarette butts there are some FAQ’s available to address reasons for littering.   CLO lists one reason as the most harmful and that is the myth that cigarette butts are biodegradable. They are not. Some filters take a year to disappear, others take up to 12 years, and still others never fully biodegrade due to the acetate found in the filters.

Littering cigarettes is not just harmful to non-smokers and the environment, but it also penalizes courteous smokers. Cigarette bans which are punitive and restrict freedoms of smokers have been winning out due to discourteous smokers., a smokers rights activist group concurs.

Why do smokers litter so much?

This is a cultural phenomenon. It was once acceptable to throw butts on the ground under the theory they would degenerate quickly. While debatable in the old days, that notion should have gone out as quickly as filters came in. Unfortunately it didn't. Considerate smokers don't litter. Those who do deserve criticism as much as any other litterer.

In the end smokers’ freedoms do not have to be limited if they simply display courtesy to others and the Earth. Do not smoke around large groups of people and do not litter your cigarettes then there will be little legitimate reason for others to complain.