Cigarettes bad for environment; Captain Obvious takes rest of day off

Not only are you killing yourself, but you're probably destroying the environment too.
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Not only are you killing yourself, but you're probably destroying the environment too.

It’s my last day as an intern here at BACKPACKER and I have a confession to make:

I’m a smoker.

I’ve hidden this fact from my co-workers because 1) it’s a totally disgusting habit and 2) it’s totally antithetical to the BACKPACKER lifestyle. It’s also ironic that I, as a former collegiate athlete, skier, and runner, participate in an unnecessarily expensive and totally self-destructive activity. I’m close to quitting, down to one per day or less, committed to stopping this summer.

I’m choosing to stop because of the aforementioned reasons and because, living in Boulder, I’m much more attuned to living “green.” Also, it’s pretty tough to be active at altitude if you’re destroying your lung capacity. Back in Philadelphia, it was easy for me to throw butts on the ground among the rest of the litter strewn there. When I go to parks out here, I feel guilty dirtying such pristine places (and how annoying to have your tent-mate smell like smoke!). When I’m hiking, I’m too amazed by the beauty around me (and usually too out of breath) to think about smoking.

Despite my own commitment to quitting, butts are piling up. According to Keep America Beautiful, Inc., cigarette butts constitute the number one littered item, in the U.S. and worldwide. In their 2008 study, 35% of 1000 smokers surveyed toss five or more cigarette butts per pack on the ground. It seems that cigarette butts litter the street more now than ever due to indoor smoking bans, inadequate receptacles, or, most likely, simple laziness. Interviews in a recent New York Times article show that few people understand how destructive the filter of the cigarette can be. Not only does it account for 28 percent to 33 percent of all litter, but they’re not biodegradable. Cigarette filters take 25 years to decompose and are filled with toxic chemicals; when tossed on the ground, they enter sewers and waterways, allowing these chemicals to seep into our water supply.

There’s no better way to curb this environmental hazard than to quit smoking. You’ll get your chance to start on Sunday, May 31st, by joining in the World Health Organization’s No Tobacco Day. You can also check out Keep America Beautiful’s guide to cigarette litter prevention. Not only will you feel better, the earth will look better. When quitting, it helps to trade this negative habit for a positive one. Exercise instead: head for a walk or do sit-ups when you get a craving. I plan on walking my dog or running when the urge hits – I should be in great shape by the end of summer!

– Adrienne Saia Isaac

EcoSalon: The Butts Remain

Photo credit: lissalou66