Cigarette butts are garbage too

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, June 02, 2006

Thanks for the article about neighborhood garbage (May 30). It's timely now that spring is here, flowers are appearing, and volunteers have been cleaning up all over town. I'm amazed that some people who choose to live in such a beautiful environment treat it so poorly.

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Consider what I witnessed in a single day last week: Driving to work in the morning I saw a woman nonchalantly toss a paper coffee cup out the window, right on top of the bridge. At lunch, walking by a downtown hotel, I recognized a prominent citizen reading a newspaper clipping outside, and when he was finished he crumpled it up, tossed it to the curb and went inside. I could not believe my eyes. Later a co-worker eating a fast food sandwich casually threw the wrapper on the ground in the parking lot before entering our building. I was speechless. As you read this letter, are you also appalled that all of these people could be so thoughtless about littering? I would hope so.

Now answer this question: Are you a smoker? Because the woman in her car, the prominent citizen, and the co-worker? All smokers. The garbage they so carelessly tossed out, without giving it a second thought? Not a coffee cup, newspaper clipping, or food wrapper, but instead cigarette butts. I'd bet we all see more than one person litter with a cigarette butt every single day, adding to the thousands that clog the curbs and are washed into the channel.

Yes, smokers are people too. Indeed many are prominent citizens: doctors, teachers, people who care about Juneau and would certainly be offended if someone threw other kinds of trash on the sidewalk in front of them. So why do they not think of their own cigarette butts in the same way? Smokers have plenty of excuses: "Butts are small" - well, so was the newspaper clipping. "Butts are biodegradable" - not really, but all the trash I substituted is. Does that really make a difference? "There isn't anywhere to toss them" - the lady in the car had an ashtray right at her fingertips, and certainly the hotel had a garbage can only a few steps away. If you smoke, please remember the next time you open your car window or prepare to walk into a building that cigarette butts are garbage, exactly like and just as offensive as littering with a newspaper, coffee cup or fast food wrapper.

Sheila Box


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