Back to the butts in the road


You all know how I feel about litter of any kind. Or, at least if you’ve read this column enough you should know how I feel about litter of any kind. This week I’m feeling that way — the angry way — after having returned home from a weekend press conference to see the three-tenths of a mile of my dirt road from Highway 21 to my house strewn with the trash from the inside of someone’s vehicle(s).

One of the first things that caught my eye was an empty cigarette carton hanging in the bushes on the side of the road. Not an empty pack — that’s at my driveway — an empty carton. Why? Just why?

The carton reminded me of the pack, which reminded me of the butts that were left in my yard by some workers last fall. Those butts reminded me of the thousands of butts that used to raise my blood pressure every day when I stopped in the turning lane at a particular traffic light on my route home. I’m serious there had to be thousands.

The thought of all of that reminded me of an e-mailed press release that had recently landed in my inbox. I hadn’t read it — yet — at the time, but now I have. It seems that my repulsion of the butt problem has more credence than I orignally expected.

The press release from the Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition of Rankin, Scott and Simpson Counties is entitled No Ifs, Ands or Butts - How Cigarette Butts Are Harming Our State.

“Cigarette litter is something that can be controlled; no ifs, ands, or buts about it,” the release begins. I do question that opening statement because if it “can be” it surely would have already been, but let’s read on.

“According to, billions of cigarettes are littered every day in the United States. Mississippi has its share, especially along rural roads, where Mississippi has 30 percent more litter than other states. 

“Most cigarette filters are composed of a form of plastic known as cellulose acetate. These are the white fibers seen in a cigarette filter that have been commonly mistaken for cotton. Once discarded, the cigarette butts can remain in the environment anywhere from 18 months to 10 years, depending on conditions.

“As the litter of cigarette butts wash into the water system, it exposes humans and animals to the harmful chemicals found in cigarettes.”

The following are listed in the press release.

• Benzo[a]pyrene: Found in coal tar and cigarette smoke. It is one of the most potent cancer causing chemicals in the world.

• Arsenic: Deadly poison that causes diarrhea, cramps, anemia, paralysis and malignant skin tumors. It is used in pesticides.

• Acetone: It’s one of the active ingredients in nail polish remover.

• Lead: Lead poisoning stunts growth, causes vomiting and causes brain damage.

• Formaldehyde: Causes cancer, can damage lungs, skin and digestive systems. Embalmers use it to preserve dead bodies.

• Butane: It’s highly flammable and is one of the components in gasoline.

• Cadmium: It causes damage to the liver, kidneys and brain and stays in the body for years.

• Ammonia: It causes individuals to absorb more nicotine, keeping them hooked on smoking. It is used as a household cleaner.

There you have it. Not only are all those cigarette butts litter, they are poisoning the environment as well.

I knew it! I knew it all along!

And, although I’ve written these words in this space over and over again, they are  worth mentioning one more time for the record — probably not the last time, I’m guessing. Butts are litter and littering is against the law! There are penalties in Mississippi for littering. Mississippi Statute 97-15-29  states: “Littering highways and private property with trash or substance likely to cause fire imposes a fine between $50 and $250 for a first conviction; with the option of community service, payment of damages, removal of waste and payment of agency costs. For subsequent convictions, minimum and maximum fines are doubled.”

So, stop doing it!

The same goes for everything else you are throwing out your windows as well.

Just stop doing it!