Sunday, March 29, 2009

Inconsiderate smokers burn me up

Published March 29, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

The other night, as I was driving home from work, I was stopped at a traffic light next to a woman in a dark colored sedan. She had her driver’s side window down, which was odd because the night was quite cold. As I glanced her way, I realized why. Dangling from her fingers was a small stub of a cigarette. She took a few more puffs as we waited for the light to turn green and I held my breath and hoped, for the sake of all things good and healthy, that she wouldn’t do what I thought she was going to do. Alas.

Deciding she’d had all the nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide she was going to get from this particular cigarette, she opened her fingers and flipped up her thumb in one, deft motion and sent the still burning butt into the air, where it bounced off my car and onto the street. I stared at her, irritation more than evident on my face, and muttered, “That’s right, lady. The world is your ashtray.” She didn’t notice, because she was busy lighting up her next piece of litter.

Inconsiderate smokers, will someone please explain to me why it is that you think you have the right to throw your cigarette butts anywhere you please? Is there some city code somewhere that says littering is unlawful unless your litter is very small and on fire? Do you think if your cigarette butt is still burning that it will eventually burn itself down into nothing? Are you capable of rational thought or has everything I’ve said up to this point come out as, “Blah blah blah blah cigarette?”

I feel the need to point out that I have nothing against smokers in general. I’m related to quite a few. If you want to inhale toxic chemicals for your own amusement, you’re welcome to it. I thoroughly enjoy a super greasy breakfast burrito from my favorite Mexican restaurant now and then. I don’t see much of a difference between the two. We’re all slowly dying and some of us choose to speed up the process with harmful junk. I get that.

However, when I am finished with my cheesy, sausage-y, potato-y bit of south-of-the-border goodness, I do not just toss the wrapper and salsa cups onto the street. I dispose of the evidence of my evil doing in an approved container, thus leaving streets and sidewalks free of litter. If you’re a smoker and you do the same with your butts, good for you. We can be friends…but not the kind of friends who hang out while you’re smoking, because I prefer to raise my heart disease risk with things wrapped in homemade tortillas, not in cancer causing clouds of your second hand smoke.

Did you know that almost 50 percent of the litter found in urban areas is cigarette related? Did you know that up to 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered every year? Did you know that if someone very industrious and independently wealthy laid all those butts end to end, they’d be able to circle the earth 16 times?

I don’t know about you, but that seems a little excessive. I think instead of lining all those discarded butts up and wrapping them around the earth, we should return them to their owners. Cities everywhere are having to clean this stuff up every day. Why not collect the butts, track down the offenders, and give them back. I think a dump truck load per home is fair, don’t you?

If there are cigarette flinging smoking litterers among my readership who are deeply offended by this column, I do apologize if I’ve hurt your feelings. Please, send those feelings in letter form care of the Spectrum and they’ll be sure to pass the letter on to me. As a conciliatory gesture, I will send a gift to your home…a little special something from me to you.

Be sure to tip the dump truck driver.