Commentary

printed 05/17/2019

One of the worst aspects of the smoking habit is the nasty collection of stained cigarette filters left behind in the wake of those who indulge.

Why smokers persist in believing that cigarette butts and filters will somehow be absorbed and reckoned with by nature with no harm done, while also being ignored by nonsmokers, is mystery, the only solution to which is that many smokers just don’t have a clue.

The fact is, cigarette filters are made of plastic — cellulose acetate, to be precise — which don’t easily decompose. Most estimates are that it takes anywhere from two to 10 years for a filter to break down completely, with one study showing that a filter is just 38 percent decomposed after two years.

What this means, obviously, is that a carelessly discarded cigarette butt is going to be around a long time, leaching the toxic chemicals it contains throughout its existence.

This can’t be good for the environment, and it certainly isn’t a pleasant sight for the 80-85 percent of the public that eschew tobacco in all forms.

Even so, Ocean City recognizes that the remaining 15-20 percent of the people who do smoke are going to do it one way or the other, and so is about to place more receptacles in the Boardwalk area as an encouragement to use them instead of flicking butts on the ground.

If smokers followed the military example of field-stripping cigarettes before disposal and holding onto the filters to be deposited properly later, these receptacles wouldn’t be needed. But that is not the case.

Ocean City government’s Green Team recognizes that, as does the Coastal Bays Program. Together they are seeking business support for their effort to place receptacles where they are needed, so the burnt leftovers can be recycled and the streets and sidewalks be made to look more inviting.

We encourage businesses to join this initiative, just as we also urge smokers to be more respectful of those who’d just as soon see them vanish … in a puff of smoke.

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