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Saturday, June 11, 2005

Kick some butt

Everybody is entitled to their bad habits. I am even willing to extend that to drugs, sex, whining and blogging. :) It's where your (my) bad habits start trampling on the rest of world that I draw the line. I am very much in the anti smoking camp. I don't think I could ever accept a job from a cigarette maker. I say this will living in one of the tobacco capitals of the world. I don't smoke. I'm concerned about any friends or family who do and I rejoice when they quit. As much against smoking as I am, I think you are entitled to do it. We are all entitled to choose our own poison. I can claim no moral superiority whatsoever. I'm not better than you are for not smoking.

Smokers, to their credit, have come a long ways, not always willingly. Not so long ago you could smoke anywhere, including work. It was not uncommon to be sandwiched between two smokers and there wasn't little you could do about it. You could try, but you would start a war and it wouldn't make any difference. You just had to deal with it. Thank God that has changed. Smokers grumbled when they had to sit in a smoking section and really complained when they had to go to a lounge to smoke. Now, most smoking is done outdoors. They don't complain now because somehow this entitles them to an extra four or five breaks a day. Nonsmokers don't complain either because they no longer have to breathe their smoke. Almost everyone's happy. Well everyone but me.

I hate cigarette butts. It has become acceptable through long practice just to flick your butt anywhere as long as you are outdoors. I am fascinated that people flick live cigarette butts out their car windows at high speed. I wonder what they would think if I went to their house and started flicking burning matches? The plantings along the front walkway of The Tampa Tribune building are choked with butts. It's a community ashtray. They are everywhere; on city sidewalks, streets and parks. It's an activity that is almost universally participated in by smokers who don't give it a second thought. These are not careless people. They are regular people with jobs, familes, etc. My guess is that when they get home, they use the ashtray.

I propose that we change this ethic. It's just a matter of thoughtlessness. You will never reform everybody, but we must change common attitudes towards this. We spend millions of dollars telling people how to live their lives. This is mostly wasted effort. I propose we take a small part of that money and start raising awareness. We have a national blind spot on this subject. You have to be aware that there is a problem before you can solve it. I suggest you start looking down a little more and noticing how many cigarette butts you see, especially in public areas and around building entrances. You will be amazed at the extent of this problem and I hope a little offended. I don't suggest you approach smokers directly unless you want to lose a friend or cause a fight, but you can start talking about the problem of litter and making others aware too. At some point it is going to sink in and smokers will become aware of the problem they are creating. These are otherwise considerate people and we have to rely on their good nature. Most people will stop doing things that pollute their (own) environment and offend their friends and coworkers. It must become part of the public ethic not to casually litter. Once that happens it becomes the exception and not the rule. Then the battle is won. People don't think twice about adding a little bit to a pile of trash. They think twice about littering a beautiful garden.

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