Social Question

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

Why isn't there a law against throwing cigarette butts into the street?

Asked by ParaParaYukiko (6111points) May 10th, 2010

Okay, this is one of my biggest pet peeves. I’m not crazy about smoking in general, but what bothers me even worse is how all smokers I’ve ever known just throw their used cigarette butts on the ground when they’re done.

Now I know they didn’t start introducing those communal cigarette butt disposal things in front of buildings until fairly recently, but really – can’t people find a trash can?

I see this happening all the time, so why don’t people do anything about it? It hurts the earth and is an eyesore to any street or sidewalk. I see those signs on the highway advertising huge fines for littering, but do these not apply to cigarettes?

I know the last smoking-based discussion I saw on Fluther turned into a huge argument, but this just really frustrates me.

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28 Answers

missingbite's avatar

It is against the law. It’s called littering. Just like most of the laws, it’s just not enforced enough.

john65pennington's avatar

When you go to an Emergency Room of a hospital, they see first the people with the most serious sickness or injury, right? this is the same with cigarette butts on the ground or littering. on a scale of one to ten, cigarette butt littering is at the bottom of the list. you can push the issue by calling an officer and signing a warrant yourself. an officer cannot act on something he did not witness.

To book a person for littering takes about two hours. thats two hours you and your city are unprotected by that officer. in other words, more serious crimes come first.

Granted you have a legitimate, valid point and i agree with you. i guess this is why most cities have jail trustees that pick up trash(cigs. included).

Seek's avatar

@john65pennington – tell that to all the people that lose their houses to wildfires caused by errant smokers.

john65pennington's avatar

Seek Kolnahr, i agree also with your answer. BUT, until different orders are given to police officers, concerning littering, it will still remain at the bottom of the priority list.

mrentropy's avatar

I’m a smoker and I agree with this. It bothers me that people just fling their butts all over the place. But, yeah, there is a law against it. Although, given the current attitude towards smokers it wouldn’t surprise me if they created a specific law for cigarette butts.

Anywho, anti-cigarette-butt-litter ads have been around for a long time. Butts make Indian chiefs cry.

john65pennington's avatar

2nd Answer. lets look at a scenerio: suppose driver x threw a cigarette butt out of his moving automobile on the interstate. even though an officer is behind driver x and was a witness to the littering, how would the officer make a case in court? the officer would have to have the thrown cigarette as evidence , in order to make a case. have you ever stopped on the interstate and tried to pick up a cigarette butt? not to mention the particular brand driver x was smoking? i attempted this one time on a state highway. i soon learned that of all the ciagrette butts on the side of the road, i did not know which belonged to the driver i had stopped. i knew i could not make a case in court, so i just gave a warning. this is one big problem with arresting people who smoke and throw thier cig. butts on the open road.

Seek's avatar


I’d settle for a fine for littering.

There doesn’t seem to be any need for evidence that a driver wasn’t wearing his seatbelt. Why is this any different?

faye's avatar

There is an extra fine in Alberta if you are seen tossing a lit cigarette from your car window- hefty fine!!

john65pennington's avatar

Seek, its the portability of the evidence. in other words, you would not take a persons seatbelt out of his vehicle for evidence in court. a cig. butt is portable, collectable and is necessary as evidence. its like one persons word against another, but having the cig. butt in court is proof of the officers arrest and violation.

Lightlyseared's avatar

In the UK it is illegal. The fine is £80 issued on the spot and it is enforced.

Seek's avatar

One more reason to move out of this country, I guess.

MissAusten's avatar

My in-laws (smokers themselves) were complaining the other day because someone they knew got a ticket for littering when she threw a cigarette butt out of her car window. Apparently this one nearby town has decided not to tolerate this kind of littering, and if an officer sees someone pitch a cigarette onto the street or sidewalk, that person will get a ticket.

There was no arrest involved, just a ticket with a fine.

john65pennington's avatar

MissAusten, did your in-laws go to court and fight the citation? chances are, they did not. if they had, a good attorney would have demanded to see the evidence(cig. butt). happened in my city.

mrentropy's avatar

Good, they got a ticket. They should get a ticket. I don’t understand why people can’t use an ashtray and throw it in the trash.

john65pennington's avatar

mrentropy, its called lazy. Smokey The Bear is not a happy camper.

lilikoi's avatar

There is. It’s illegal to litter. Good luck enforcing it though, and even if you were caught the penalties are relatively small.

MissAusten's avatar

@john65pennington It didn’t happen to my in-laws, it happened to someone they know. I do not know the outcome. It seems to me that hiring a lawyer to fight the ticket would cost more than just paying the fine.

lilikoi's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr I HATE it when people flick their butts on the ground, but I do not think it is fair or just for cops to be able to just slap people with littering fines because they “saw” you do it. That would open up a huge door for abuse by police officers. About 9/10 parking violations I’ve received in my life, I’ve appealed and won. That’s how overzealous a person can be when you give them a tiny bit of power. I think we need to approach from the educational perspective and teach children from when they are very young that littering is irresponsible. Maybe if movies showed A-list actors putting their trash in appropriate receptacles instead of smoking we could kill two birds with one stone.

perspicacious's avatar

As far as I know every state has anti-litter laws. Cigarette butts would be considered litter. If you want your jurisdiction’s laws enforced, contact your mayor or county commission.

deni's avatar

it is littering but it’s never acknowledged and no one is ever cited for it because it would be too hard. i think that is very unfortunate though. i’ve seen people’s front yards in front of their porch where the grass literally is covered by cig butts. how could you stand that? i couldnt.

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

@lilikoi I agree with you about the parking tickets. But cigarette butts are another matter in my opinion. I’ve seen it done almost every day where I live, and whenever I do I want to slap a fine on the person (maybe even literally). Seeing actual enforcement of our litter laws on the spot would certainly stop some people from throwing their butts wherever they want.

@deni Even more gross to think about – I wonder what it would look like if you gathered together every cigarette butt discarded onto our streets in one place? This site estimates that several trillion cigarette butts are discarded worldwide every year.

Kraigmo's avatar

There’s no reason to toss a cigarette butt out a window, or anywhere else besides an ashtray, and later the trash.

People who litter cigarette butts are narcissistic pieces of shit. They don’t want to realize if everyone cared as little as they do, then America would look like the Tijuana riverbed. They don’t care about the fact their trash goes into the gutter system, which usually leads to a creek or ocean.

I especially hate seeing cigarette butts on nature trails and other beautiful places.

Although I would never do the following in real life, I do go through the scenes in my mind of taking such people, grabbing them by their necks and slamming their faces down into the ground where their litter is, and and then rubbing their faces in it, and then taking their filthy bloody faces, and slamming it against their beautiful car , whose ashtray they cared more about keeping clean, than anything else on planet Earth.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Perhaps someone could set up a website where the licence number and car description of butt flickers could be posted. This accumulating body of evidence might shame drivers into respecting laws against littering. It might even be used to “reward” local drivers for their “thoughtfulness”. I’m not advocating vigilante vandalism!

mattbrowne's avatar

There is.

In Singapore.

They even make politicians sweep the streets when caught in the act.

jsf1974's avatar

Whenever I see someone in front of me on the highway throw a (usually lit) cigarette butt out their window, I get in front of them and throw something else, usually a plastic soda bottle out the window when I’m far enough in front of then to watch, and am always amused by the utter HORROR on his/her face: “Oh my God! That guy just LITTERED! He should go to JAIL!” Well, what did you just do, Mr./Ms. Hypocrite? So what? Yeah, I littered, but at least I can’t start a fire like you could (and have many times in history). It’s tolerated because for some reason, it’s the “thing to do”. But God forbid, throw a bottle or something of the sort from the window or in a park, and you’re a DISGUSTING LITTERING SCHMUCK WHO WILL BURN IN HELL. But throw a lit cigarette butt anywhere you want, even in the dangerous Santa Ana season in southern CA (where I lived for 7 years), and it’s all good. Most people are just stupid.

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Seek's avatar

@jsf1974 * standing ovation *

Sinqer's avatar

Uh, first off, in comparison to many things thrown on the ground, cigarette butts are not harmful to mother earth. They deteriorate quickly compared to other substances like styrofoam. The degree to which something is biodegradable likely plays into it, and no harmful effect to the earth has been linked to cigarette butts that I know of.

I agree, as a smoker, that not disposing of your butt appropriately is lazy and inconsiderate. I field strip mine and throw them in the trash.

As far as the littering on the highway, I am most concerned with accidental fires, though this is unlikely when you consider the number of cigarette butts loosed and the number of fires they have started.

Smokers know their butts will biodegrade in a month or so, much less if it rains, and the butts don’t endanger the vehicles behind them, unlike plastic bottles and other larger objects.

Bottles also accumulate (not degrade) along the highways, and you would have to stop your car and look for cigarette butts to find them… it’s a matter of aesthetics. As for those that pitch them on foot in public, just lazy, trashy, inconsiderate people… but not unlike non-smokers who suffer the same traits, but display them in other ways.

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