No butts about it, throw them out

Column by Donald Mason. E-mail [email protected].

As I was driving around town the other day, I witnessed a crime, a crime I have seen repeated over and over in my lifetime — someone who had just finished a cigarette looks around and then throws the butt on the ground.

In Kentucky, littering is considered a Class A misdemeanor with a fine up to $500 (KY Statute 512.070). Just to clarify, this is an illegal act.

This is not an attack on smokers, who make a personal choice to smoke. My beef is with the littering and the disregard for the environment, law and fellow Earth dwellers.

As my friend Dave Chappelle reminds us, let’s keep it real for a moment.

According to a 2009 study by the United Health Foundation, Kentucky ranks third in the US for highest population of smokers, at 25.2 percent. The estimated population of KY is 4.2 million residents. That means there are about a million smokers here in KY.

According to several studies, the average smoker consumes between 10-20 cigarettes per day. This would equate to approximately 10-20 million butts or filters to dispose of daily, just in Kentucky alone.

For the year, the tally would be between 365 million and 730 million pieces of toxic litter. So, “what is the big deal about a few filters on the ground?” you may ask.

Filters are usually made with cellulose-acetate wrapped in a paper shell — a change made in the ‘50s to lessen the risk of lung cancer and other diseases. Basically, the filter is plastic and paper.

This causes a problem:  cigarette butts do not decompose, but they degrade over 10-15 years. Thus, each one discarded will stay around for a while. Just look on the ground anywhere you walk, including this smoke-free campus.

You would be hard pressed to find many areas that have no cigarette litter.

This means that there will be contamination of water supplies — animals will be at risk by eating them and even children picking up and eating them out of curiosity. Let me ask you, when you unwrap a CD, get a drink from a fast food restaurant or open a piece of junk mail, do you just throw it on the ground when you are done? No, you say?

Then why would cigarette butts be so different?

Again, I’m not asking people to stop smoking, but reconsider your choice after the nicotine rush is over. We all live here together and should respect this planet responsibly.

So keep your butts away from my mama (Mother Earth).