I hit the research books. I learned that not all smokers litter their butts. Not every cigarette a smoker consumes will become litter. The studies say about 35 per cent of all smokers litter. On average they will litter 5 butts out of every 20-pack. One report estimated that 45 per cent of smokers carry and use a personal ashtray.
Crunching numbers is one thing. Bringing them to life is quite another. In Ontario, home to 2.1 million smokers, we followed the “.35-formula” to estimate the number of littering smokers in this province, where close to 40 per cent of Canada’s smokers reside. The total exceeds 750,000 people.
Using the modest estimate of one in four cigarettes being tossed, every smoker who litters generates 1,825 of these vile little items of long-lasting litter every year. Cellulose acetate (plastic and tobacco) laced in chemicals lies ready to leach into a drain or water way near you, is able to set a forest on fire with a single careless cinder.
If the picture of 1,825 stinking butts I put in a see-through plastic handbag is gross, the sight of 30 years’ worth is downright disgusting.
To raise awareness that cigarette butt tossing is littering and falls under the heading of ‘crime’ we thought it was time to show smokers that it isn’t just one end they’re flicking, it’s thousands of butts a year. I can assure you this doesn’t do the planet any good.
In all, we trucked 54,750 cigarette butts to Ontario’s legislative building in downtown Toronto. We filled a wheelbarrow with them and brought it to the attention of the television media. This was days before Weedless Wednesday, when smokers are asked to try to quit smoking for the day.
I ask smokers to think about quitting littering if they can’t quit smoking. We showcased the smelly mountain of tobacco filters weighing 20 kilos as the environmental deficit created by one flicking smoker in 30 years. Now multiply that by three quarters of a million people and you know the problem of cigarette butt littering is not small. In fact, we were able to show how large an issue this really is.
Thank you, all the considerate smokers out there. Now can’t you do something about the other guys?