I’m not about to rail against smokers. I’ve got nothing against that habit as long as it doesn’t interfere with my breathing or my meal.
I’m not against smoking. There are many worse vices out there and I even enjoy the odd smoke when having a beer or sitting out on a nice evening.
But what bothers me are the butts – no ifs or ands about it.
Everyday, whether it’s in front of the Trail Memorial Centre or walking the streets downtown or crossing the bridge I see the remnants of someone smoking.
I don’t really get it.
Almost daily I see people who wouldn’t normally toss a candy wrapper or a Kleenex on the sidewalk calmly and without remorse flick their butt on to the sidewalk or the street and walk away.
Even during the height of the wildfire season this summer I was amazed to see people, adults, simply flick their still-burning butt out on to the street as they headed back to work or on their merry way.
While the fire danger may be minimal on a downtown street, it amazes me that people appear to believe it’s not some form of littering.
Even as a once-and-awhile smoker, I at least have the habit of keeping that butt in my pocket and waiting until there is a trash bin nearby to discard it.
At the Trail Times we’ve written a lot about people dumping their garbage in remote areas and the city’s battle to hold them accountable.
However, cigarette butts might be one of the city’s biggest garbage problems.
Complaints about the mess they leave on sidewalks, the plugged up drains and the butts finding their way into the water run-off, are just some of the litany of issues that smolder from cigarette waste.
As I stated at the outset, I’m not out to ban smoking. All I’m asking is for the smoker to treat their cigarette butts like any piece of garbage and find a proper place to dispose of it.
Smokers don’t throw their empty packages on to the sidewalk or the plastic wrappings. So why should another portion be treated any differently?
I was prompted to write this column after reading a piece about the City of Nanaimo and its plan to tackle discarded cigarette butts.
Under the heading “Keep Nanaimo Clean,” the city is giving away 200 pocket ashtrays to people around town.
“Cigarette butts are the largest portion of the litter that we collect,” Charlotte Davis, the city’s manager of recycling and sanitation, told the CBC.
“Sometimes with it being such a small piece of litter, people don’t even classify it as litter,” said Davis, “But it’s all litter and it’s all the same stuff and it’s bad for the environment and our city.”
It’s a simple yet great solution.
The pocket ashtrays have the city’s emblem as well as the campaign slogan and are basically a little plastic pouch that fits neatly into any pocket.
It’s one of those little things that can make a big difference.
Even in Trail, it could work on so many levels.
It’s not just a city issue, companies who have employees that smoke probably make a habit of reminding everyone of the dangers of smoking – that’s been drilled into our heads for decades now.
However, accepting that some people enjoy smoking is a fact of life and, frankly, their right.
But littering, which has also been drilled into our heads for decades, is bad for everyone and everything.
Those same companies that promote a healthy lifestyle for its employees should also promote a healthy environment too.
There’s enough little trinkets companies produce – from key chains to pens to hats – that incorporating pocket ashtrays into its list of items shouldn’t be too much of a leap.
Even if you don’t use it as an ashtray, the little pouch will find a purpose. Just look at the ashtray in most vehicles and how it has become a change holder.
It’s such a simple solution and I believe the people who toss their butts don’t intentionally mean to harm the environment. They’ve just been conditioned to not even think of it as litter as Davis explained.
With the disappearance of many public ashtrays, I believe many smokers would be happy to rethink what they do with their butts.
And overall it seems like such a small investment that could make a big impact.
Guy Bertrand is the managing editor of the Trail Times