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Cigarette butts are the single greatest source of ocean trash (nbcnews.com)
336 points by onetimemanytime 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 221 comments

The Ocean Conservancy report has been cited by quite a few articles now, and it pains me every time I see it. As ever, the conclusions drawn are quite misleading.

1) The source of the data is cleanup on beaches, not ocean trash. If anything it's more likely to be representative of items discarded on beaches or waterways.

2) Cigarette butts are greatest purely in number of individual pieces, not in terms of weight or volume.

The following paper reports fishing nets to be the largest contributor to ocean plastic (by volume). Cigarette butts aren't even worthy of a mention in their report (see Supplementary Table 4 which lists the top 5 items per item size group).


Then it was also 10 Asian rivers that account for most plastic: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/stemming-the-plas...

I guess I understand it is a hard problem to calculate, but it is an area where I wish the approach was more reasoned and less governed by fad and hype. Sure clean and prevent straws and cigarette butts if that’s really a problem, but divvy our resources in proportion to where data says the issues are...

I'm probably what you'd call an environmentalist, but the movement is wrought with people who are more concerned with getting high off of self-flagellating moral outrage than fixing problems. Legislative solutions to large polluters and trash generators don't feel like penance in the same way that individual sacrifices do, so a huge chunk of people who are nominally concerned with environmental issues misallocate their complaints, wrt the actual severity of polluters.

I'm not sure this is solvable, humans being what they are, and I don't think it's unique to environmental issues.

We probably need (but don’t want) algorithmic control of our actions.

What else is a constitution?

sigi45 6 months ago [flagged]

I'm able to complain about plastic and cigarette butts in parallel.


Perhaps tone down your externally-flagellatoriousness if you're in agreement with somebody

What do you mean by "externally flagellating"?

It's possible, and this is just a suggestion in the nicest way possible, that he may be referring to his own face. That or he just made a word up. How intelligent!

I did respond to the following:

"issues misallocate their complaints, wrt the actual severity of polluters"

No need to be sarcastic.

The Asian rivers was something I learned fairly recently. It wasn't a big shock, but it wasn't obvious either.

Do you know if the report also broke down the rivers by size and waterfront population? IE, do the communities along those Asian rivers pollute more than those in the US or EU, or are they simply the largest rivers in the world by volume and/or local population?

(Yes, I know the Ganges in filthy)

I imagine, being in China, the pollution is also an externality of the manufacturing for the entire world that Europe/US is happy to occur in China instead of locally.

Yeah, western countries can outsource all manufacturing there, lower their businesses costs, and then play holier than thou on green matters too...

Severly poor communities without any wastewater treatment letting effluent into the river they live next to is the problem. It is the prime recipe for Cholera.

So EU/US usually makes cleaner wastewater, but uses a lot more energy (so pollutes by CO2).

Manufacturing's externalities outsourcing is of course something that should be handled by import tariffs and supply chain verification.

Sure, but I was asking specifically about the plastic waste and other trash, which was the original topic. Not general pollutants.

For any kind of pollution, the prime polluter has incentive to spread factoids pointing to significant other polluters.

The comment you respond to mentions fishing nets to be the biggest pollutant by volume (which is quite logical if one thinks about it). Obviously a marine source has incentive to highlight landbased sources such as rivers. If one hears about the most polluting river one is easily confused into thinking rivers are the biggest polluter. Also note the questions surrounding metric of river pollution (i.e. per capita pollution of rivers and so on ...)

God can’t they engineer some kind of filter system at the ends of those rivers?

Cigarette butts are really a problem ... at least for me. They are disgusting. So even though they are not a significant source for ocean plastic, they should be avoided or cleaned.

It's television "news". Why would anyone expect better? The headline tomorrow will say/read, "A new study shows ..." and state the exact opposite.

If we combine that data with data on annual amount of plastic being thrown into the ocean, we get 4 tons of fishing nets per year being lost by the part of the finish industry that use fishing nets.

Buying new fishing nets are quite expensive, and by experience, fishermen tend to spend a large part of the year repairing them. I wonder what the lost rate is per fisherman, national region, and caught fish.

Skimming the articles it estimates there are 42000 tons of mega(large) plastics, of which 86% would be fishing nets, so 36120 tons. Didn't find the per annum data, but that's certainly much more than 4 tons a year (else it would've taken 9030 years to get current weight), I'd guess at least 2000 tons per year.

The paper you cite is just about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The general problem with this kind of criticism is that it can be leveled at any article citing a statistic.

No matter what value an article chooses to highlight they could have highlighted a different one. True... but so what?

Here I guess the root of your objection is that the article seems to conflate the ocean-sides with the entire ocean. That's fair: the article is really about ocean sides, but in a few places it refers generally to the ocean. It appears to be purposeful, too, since it's in the headline and lede while the rest of article is straight. Still, that the headline and lede is overly strong is, unfortunately, almost a universally applicable criticism these days. Headlines and ledes are written for attention-grabbing not accuracy. That's a problem not of individual articles, but of a system that lives on click-through.

A less superficial criticism would be to examine the degree to which the main point of the article -- that cigarette butt pollution is a problem that should be addressed -- is fair, or whether it's making this out to be a significantly more substantial problem than it really is. (Remember, the context here is activism to reduce pollution, where there was recently a lot of focus and traction on plastic drinking straws, for which there was some backlash, with people arguing that there was a lot of focus on a tiny part of the problem. So a really good question here is, is this just more plastic straw BS or is there a really issue here?)

And keep in mind that if cigarette butts are a coastal pollution problem it doesn't mean something else, like fishing nets in the ocean, isn't a problem.

>The general problem with this kind of criticism is that it can be leveled at any article citing a statistic.

Only if it cites a badly done statistic or misleads as to the statistic's conclusions, as this article does.

>No matter what value an article chooses to highlight they could have highlighted a different one. True... but so what?*

That's not the accusation here. It's that what they chose to highlight is not the most important pollutant of oceans by any reasonable metric. The purpose of citing a statistic in the first place is to consider things in their respective relevance.

Now, restricting this to the ocean side (which the article editors should have done already in their chosen title), it doesn't seem to be such a problem either (and I'm from a country where most smoke and has tons of beaches).

Only tangentially related, but I am continually astonished by the absence of any sort of social norms surrounding cigarette butt disposal. I have (otherwise environmentally conscious!) friends who smoke, and I've personally witnessed them flick their cigarettes into gutters and on streets.

As a serious question, without judgment: are there any smokers on HN who can explain the phenomenon?

Former smoker here and guilty of throwing many butts on the ground even though I find any other form of litter unthinkable.

When I was much younger I believed that cigarette butts biodegraded in a couple years. No big deal, right? I distinctly remember reading this on a sign at a campsite when I was about 18. Turns out, that's an ideal scenario and butts can take up to 10 years to break down naturally, and even then various "degraded" toxins are still present in the environment indefinitely.

But that campsite sign was enough to fuel 15 years of cognitive dissonance that allowed me to toss butts on the ground like they were pieces of old lettuce.

That, and the mind-bending power of nicotine addiction, which is vastly more powerful than most people realize.

Another former-ish smoker here. I smoked a couple packs over the holidays. Back when I was a daily smoker, there were smoking areas, that had bins for butts. I’ve since discovered that my local government had decided that people shouldn’t be smoking in public, or in outdoor areas of restaurants and bars. The result being people exclusively smoking in irregular places that have no bins, where they just end up flicking their butts on the ground.

It reminds me of another recent act of my local government when they banned single use plastic bags. The supermarkets started selling ‘reusable’ plastic bags for about 25c each. Resulting in many people buying a new set of ‘reusable’ plastic bags each time they shop, and just throwing the heavier plastic bags away when they get home.

Thanks for explaining, and I really don't mean to kick you while you're down here, but even if butts did degrade in 2 years, that means they're lying around a long time for birds or animals to eat or choke on them.

I think this is really the issue when addressing these kinds of pollution problems. It's hard for people to prioritise their actions because they don't understand the relative importance of the consequences. When they hear "problem X is mitigated by Y" they think the issue has been solved, even though there are several other much more serious problems that they didn't know about. Quite frequently I have found that well meaning environmentalists complicate matters by focusing attention on issues that are less important. Being motivated to make a positive difference and being educated on the best courses of action is not necessarily correlated unfortunately. When you throw bad actors into that mix, it gets so confusing that even the most determined and educated can get muddled.

Don't expect current butts to break down - the fibers are plastic, now.

A personal anecdote: when I was a student in CS, back in the early nineties, I was working in a gas station the WE.

A fellow student, now leading IT department in a European airport, was visiting me and we were chatting outdoor, just nearby the little shop I was in to cash.

And then he lights a cig. I asked him if he was ok doing that in a gas station, and he responds me something like well, we are far enough (and that was true, but still)

And when he finished it, he dropped it on the ground and scratch it with is foot :

« You know I’m the one who’ll have to pick it to trash it, and then have to clean the black mark it leaved on the white cement, do you ? »

« Oops, sorry »

He is a person I respect for a lot of things, and one of the last friend from my student time.

But his smoking M.Hyde side never stops to puzzle me.

(WE = weekend - I had to pause to parse that. Two letter abbreviations suck)

Sorry about that. It’s (oddly when you think about it) a common abbreviation in French.

Yeah, in France we use the English word weekend (amongst a lot of other)


Chocolate Shake and International Treaty.

I believe the US has unilaterally backed out of the International Chocolate Shake Treaty, to the consternation of our global allies.

I think it's because the butt is usually made to resemble some natural material like cork.

Since the rest of it (paper, tobacco, and ashes) is easily degradable, I think the natural assumption is the butt is degradable as well, and the notion that every other smoker seems to think so isn't helping.

So to answer the question: I suspect it's simply a lack of information. As a data point I'll add that I stopped deposing them right away a long time ago, because I suspected they might not be easily degradable, but this is actually the first time I've read this is the case.

If I'm correct I see no harm in correcting friends who smoke in their behaviour. They are simply unaware.

I would be interested in hearing from anyone who has been successful in this. I haven't tried educating again after a couple signal failures, concluding that people willing to harm themselves also don't mind harming others, or oceans. Probably what I should do is ask every smoker whether, out of curiousity, they know the butts are not biodegradable, since they're plastic. That sounds less like a lecture.

Yeah i thought it was biodegradable and thought they would melt away.

Cellulose acetate isn't biodegradable to any appreciable degree, and once it's soaked in tar and other toxins it's even less so.

If they were biodegradable they wouldn't completely cover the shoulders of every road and highway.

Even if they were biodegradable, why would that make it okay to throw them on the ground? Half an uneaten sandwich is certainly biodegradable. Ants or birds would probably dispose of it in days. But what sort of degenerate just tosses half a sandwich onto the sidewalk? That's inconceivable behavior for most people.

...what sort of degenerate?

We're talking about cigarette smokers.

Even not being biodegradable, they degrade in a couple of years and wouldn't cover the shoulders of every road if the supply wasn't constantly being replenished.

That's not how biodegradation works...

They certainly ain't no snoflakes but they do decompose within a few years. Compared to a plastic bag or straw are relatively benign.

"95% of cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate (a plastic), and the balance are made from papers and rayon."

Cellulose acetate degrades in between 18 months and 10 years depending on environmental conditions. A plastic bag can be there in 100 years.

> While it was initially believed that CA was virtually non-biodegradable, it has been shown that after initial partial deacetylization the polymer's cellulose backbone is readily biodegraded by cellulase enzymes. In biologically highly active soil, CA fibers are completely destroyed after 4–9 months.

Interesting re soil - but most of the small plastic in oceans blows in from coastal cities. Then again, I've never seen a smoker bury their butts.

I think it is related to people not cleaning after their dogs and throwing their thrash on the street or in the woods.

These are people who just don't give a shit about other people and only act like they care when it is convenient or necessary.

I know a couple of smokers that will make sure they have a place to dispose their butt after they are finished and I know some that will dispose them only when somebody is watching (yeah, we have windows in offices, too...)

I'm an ex-smoker and I felt I was in the minority of smokers that would roll out the tobacco and put the butt in a trashcan or my pocket until I got to a trashcan. My older brother did the same thing, so I probably was influenced more heavily by my family norms. It is slightly inconvenient and you wind up with even stinkier hands and smelly pockets using that method which might explain why people don't do it.

Recently I was with a friend smoking on my porch and he flicked his butt into my front yard. There was an ashtray right next to him which he had used previously. He had also smoked on my porch a number of times before. He is liberal friend and pretty vocal about it though I don't recall him speaking much about environmental concerns.

I don't really have an explanation, my guess is that it's a number of factors. I would chalk the scenario on the porch up to muscle memory and possibly being lost in conversation. I think that the small size is the main thing. It is not acceptable to toss any sizable piece of garbage on the street.

Second-order tangent incoming.

Back in the 1990s, when smoking inside was still allowed, a bar in Finland had a problem with people tossing their cigarette butts to the wide urinal in mens' toilet. Of course it was constantly clogged.

Tired of the disgusting cleaning routine, the owners eventually found an approach that helped. They put a new plaque on the wall above the urinal: "If you piss cigarette butts, please consult your doctor."

From the article:

In one focus group cited in industry documents, smokers said tossing their butts to the ground was “a natural extension of the defiant/rebellious smoking ritual.”

In addition to ignorance about the non-biodegradable nature of cigarette butts, I think it's very much a case of egocentric pseudo-macho faux-rebellion against society.

It comes from the same mindset as diesel truck owners rolling coal on cyclists and people in hybrid cars, and destruction of public property (park benches, trash cans and such).

Some people either just don't give a shit about other people, or are actively antagonistic.

"diesel truck owners rolling coal on cyclists and people in hybrid cars".

What does this mean?

"Rolling coal" is deliberately tuning a diesel engine (by increasing the amount of fuel in relation to air) to make it emit large amount of sooty smoke on acceleration. Any particulate filters and other emissions equipments is usually also removed. It's a well-known term among car enthusiasts, I didn't consider that it probably isn't as well-known among people who are not car enthusiasts :-)

The intention is to "stick it to the environmentalists", by deliberately and visually polluting as much as possible, and by blowing this sooty smoke right at perceived environmentalists, ie. people on bicycles or in hybrid cars.

In other words, trying to be as much of an asshole as possible.


I would like people like these to spend some time in a heavily polluted city like New Delhi, Mexico City or Shanghai/Beijing, to figure out if this is really the world they want to live in. smh...

When I used to smoke I did not litter butts when I could avoid it, but they are so disgusting (they stink, they make your fingers stink, if you wrap it in some paper or plastic and put it in your pocket your pants will stink) that you just want to get rid of it. Most things are easier to get rid of because you can put them in a bag or something until you come across a trash can.

The number of butts littered in my city in general and at public transport stops in particularly decreased very significantly ever since most public trash cans where upgraded to have a built-in ashtray (whereas previous trash cans explicitly said not to throw in "hot ashes"), and there is a lot more trash cans in general (which also reduced the general amount of littering drastically).

Approaching a tram/bus stop, you can always tell from a bit of a distance if the trash can is full, because when it is the immediate area surrounding/beneath it is a sea of cigarette butts. Even then, it seems, while most smokers will NOT take their butts with them and dispose of them properly elsewhere, they will still not just litter everywhere and anywhere, instead "placing" their butts next to the full trash can, maybe to make a statement that at least they tried...

The amount of butts littered in the downtown area with all the historic buildings and historic cobblestone streets - but also very busy with most of the bigger item shops there - is extremely low by now, virtually non-existent in most areas, not just because there are ashtray-ized trash cans there too, but also because there is city officers regularly patrolling there, making sure people don't litter in general, beggars/musicians stick by the rules, bike riders don't use the pedestrian only areas, etc. Those patrols will fine you for your flicked butts, EUR 35 on regular streets and EUR 80 when you litter on harder to clean cobblestone IIRC.

The same could be said about shit, and yet people find ways to not shit whenever and wherever they feel like (extremely rare exceptions aside)

>they are so disgusting (they stink, they make your fingers stink, if you wrap it in some paper or plastic and put it in your pocket your pants will stink) that you just want to get rid of it.

This is very true and highlights how addictive nicotine is. We’re willing to light these things on fire and breathe it into our lungs but are disgusted by the remnants and feel a compulsion to immediately discard it.

This is such a ridiculous and disgusting thing here in Berlin.

University educated people from (seemingly) good homes smoke the cigarettes and immediately chuck them out on the streets. Sometimes not even caring if they still burn.

This is my friends, my coworkers, policemen, etc. Whenever I openly question their behaviour they usually respond (quite proudly): "The city is our big ashtray".

Yes, diacarding butts by stamping on them was the social norm way before environmentalism was a thing (like 1900s), and such it has its own cultural inertia passed down between smoking generations. Stamping on them was considered best practice to prevent fire i think.

I stopped doing it though 2010ish once i realized they don't break down (now i dont smoke).

Discarding an old-fashioned filterless cigarette like that is (probably) not too bad. There are nasty compounds in the tobacco, but it's all biodegradable, relatively quickly.

The main problem is the cigarette butts from filter cigarettes, which have been the standard for decades. It's kinda stupid anyway. Smoking a known harmful substance, but oh let me filter it through this little piece of cellulose fiber wadding.

Unless people object to it, the behavior will continue. I'm that guy who'll tell someone who drops a cigarette butt to pick it up; to which the response is usually indignation or they ignore me, I figure at least I annoyed them.

> I figure at least I annoyed them

And this is why they continue to do it. You get a response of indignation when you order random strangers in a free society how to behave. You'll get better results if you use guilt instead of demands.

no it's not - they do it because nobody says anything. If you do nothing you're implicitly accepting their behavior

The way you say something is important though. Say something, but don't scold another adult like a child and tell them what to do. Your strategy is way less likely to be successful and may even instigate physical confrontation. Ask them how it's different from littering. It's probably an unconscious habit. Tell them it upsets you personally and that it's harmful to the environment.

I guess one could say something neutral like "litter" or "pollution" i.e. only label the problem without passing judgement

Unless there is a crackdown with real consequences people won't stop littering. It's too convenient, most will have to be forced to abate.

I would welcome a law enforcement branch that patrols the streets to prevent and punish these sorts of offenses. You can enact law after law, but if there's no enforcement then change is going to be elusive.

(I don't smoke and have never smoked)

For some people it's as simple as not wanting to carry around some dirty stinking cigarette butts. Portable ashtrays are sometimes produced, but they never seem to catch on.

And we shouldn't ignore the power of the really strong habit they've formed of flicking them away.

I was given one of those "portable ashtrays". A little padded pouch that felt somewhere between foil and plastic.

It worked, in that you could put out a cigarette in it and store the remains. But it stank to high heaven. I don't recall it seeing a lot of re-use.

Most of my butts went in the gutter, but I'm still not sure I could explain the mindset. They feel fluffy so you don't mentally associate it with plastic, and they're the part that's painted to look like a natural texture.

So I made a point of flicking them in the gutter rather than the sidewalk, so they'd be either washed away by rain, or taken care of by the street-sweepers.

I can see in retrospect that neither is actually a solution. I can't really explain it. There's a lot of habitual behaviours around cigarettes besides the addictive substances. When I quit, I found the hardest part wasn't the lack of chemicals, it was missing that 10 minute break where it was somehow socially acceptable to leave my desk to stand outside and have a chat with the usual crowd.

Smoking isn't a habit. It's 20 or so habits that all reinforce each other. I quit about 18 months ago, and I still have the continual feeling that I've left something behind that I shouldn't have, because my pockets don't have the expected load-out. So I have a short mini-panic that I've forgotten my keys, or my wallet, or .. and then I realise I've forgotten my smokes & lighter.

I recently found myself making a mental note to stock up before Christmas because the stores would be closed. There's a lot of practiced behaviours that look nonsensical in isolation.

I smoke cigars occasionally and this is exactly why I don't carry remnants home; they smell bad for several hours after use and I don't want to stink up my clothes or apartment. I try my hardest to dispose of them in a socially conscious way (in designated cigarette disposal boxes or by immersing them in water to extinguish them and then putting them in trash cans) but sometimes the infrastructure is not there to support that. In that case I remove all the non-biodegradable elements and try to place the remnants in a place where they will not be in the way. Cigars unlike cigarettes are fully biodegradable.

Get an air purifier with that portable ashtray you need anyway...

Is your suggestion really to spend hundreds of dollars on something I rarely use so someone on the street who I don't know won't be transiently offended by a discretely placed piece of small, biodegradable plant matter? Sorry, but expecting people to do that is not realistic.

More like $50, they already have HEPA filter you need. If you can't tell yourself no, at least improve your health and health of others in a passive way.

Former smoker (who still smokes occasionally) — I think there’s also some hive mind with it as well. I started smoking as a teenager and never really considered the effect of throwing butts on the ground. It’s just what I saw everyone else doing. If I smoke now I always put my cigarette out and throw the butt away.

You see every other smoker do it and you think, what’s the point? and you just throw it away. I can’t carry it in my pocket. If trashcan is in visible sight, I’m ok with walking little bit to get rid of it. But usually it’s the case that there isn’t any good way to dispose the sigaret butt. I remember when I started smoking I never littered the street, I took extra steps to get it into nearest trashcan, but three years later I have changed.

I'm stupid but when I used to smoke as a teen in Netherlands it was NORMAL to throw them on the street and sometimes step on them. I imagined back then they'd biodegrade (eg rot). Obviously they didn't.

Don't smoke anymore so that's nice.

Former smoker as well. What else are you going to do with a cigarette butt? Most cars don't have ashtrays anymore. If there is a proper way for me to dispose of a cigarette within a one block radius (some sort of trash receptacle) I will do it. But most people certainly aren't going to keep smelly, tar-filled, stain causing cigarette butts in their pockets, purses, etc. or on their person for any length of time. And I've never seen anyone with

Not all of the butts end up as litter, but proper disposal still means they go to landfills. Recycling options are still extremely limited. The only one I've heard of is a mail-in recycling program. Most Unless manufacturers develop a more recyclable cigarette, the best smokers can do is to make sure their butts are properly disposed of in ashtrays, receptacles, and trashcans.

The biggest issue IMO is the makeup of the butts themselves. Most butts are made of cellulose acetate, a non-biodegradable plastic. I don't know if it's cost effective to make a recyclabe butt. If one could, perhaps a cigarette butt deposit similar to CRV on bottles would change behavior. It would not only alter the consumer behavior but would encourage smokers and nonsmokers alive to comb the streets, beaches, etc. for butts further cleaning out streets.

Otherwise, I don't think it's too much to ask for manufactureres/consumers to pony up the extra cost for a degradable cigarette butt instead of externalizing the cost to all of us for this admittedly disgusting habit.

I honestly don't care. I've always known they last for years, I know they end up all over the place, and that it's disgusting, but I don't care. I'll throw it away if I'm close to a trashcan, ashtray, etc, but otherwise I just flick it away and go about my business. I never litter otherwise, I always chase down trash if the wind takes it from my hands, and I pissed when I see someone throw trash on the ground. When I was a kid, I put my chewed gum in my pocket without a wrapper because I didn't want someone to step on it. I like to think I'm considerate to the world and the people I share it with. I never smoke next to someone unless they say it's okay, otherwise I find somewhere else to go, or just don't smoke. There's just something about throwing butts on the ground, I can't get myself to feel bad. I know I'm doing something wrong, and I know I should feel guilty, but I don't. Guess that feeling goes for smoking as well... (I apologise for this intoxicated ramble, a few of the other people who responded to you had irked me)

When something is taxed as much as cigarettes, it leads to a sense of entitlement for the user and an assumption that the cleanup cost is baked into the taxes.

That could lead to real change: drastic increase in tobacco taxes that only abate if cigarette waste drastically diminishes.

"Here's an extra $3 per pack tax that will stay in effect until cigarette waste is no longer an issue."

In my country it actually is. When I tell people to clean up after themselves they say "I just paid the government to do so".

One day I will purchase a fleet of Boston Dynamics' SpotMini and the thing will bark loudly and follow the person until they take it and throw it into an ashtray. Public shaming must work, if not, what else could?

your robots can pick up the butts, and deliver them to the smoker's house

Well if you ask people from developing countries you will get a familiar answer that its someone else's job to clean up the street not mine.

Not a smoker, but I was personally surprised when other people told me they'd have no compunction against discarding an apple core or other similar biodegradable trash on the ground.

Given that some people believe cigarettes are also biodegradable, that attitude may explain it.

As a society, we've also moved away from having appropriate storage for discarded cigarette trash - ash trays are no longer standard in anything and were already becoming a curiosity more than a decade ago. I assume cigarettes in a normal trash bin present a fire hazard and can't be disposed of there.

It's the old "dilution is the solution to pollution" mantra. The world seems so huge, and a cigarette butt so small. It's obviously a fallacy. Because there are just so damn many people.

What persists are the mouthpiece (plastic) and filter (synthetic fiber). Tobacco degrades very quickly, and paper within a year or so.

So when I smoked, I never left butts behind. For one thing, I was typically short of money, so I kept the tobacco in a small bag. I mainly smoked hand-rolled cigarettes, and typically balled up the paper, and put it in a pocket. Sometimes I just dropped the paper, I admit. And sometimes I even saved it, for reuse.

But I've also made the argument that people are quite comfortable polluting in ~invisible ways. For example, let's say that there's a road full of motor vehicles. And someone flicks out a butt. Fellow drivers will typically grumble, or yell at them. But they don't realize that they're all polluting far more, through emissions of SO2, NOx, CO2, hydrocarbons, particulates, and so on.

I think people think they are biodegradable.

It would be interesting to have a push for making it biodegradable, or who knows, maybe they can be recycled or just incinerated for energy

What is there to explain? Its convenient.

"People incapable of guilt do tend to have a good time."

As a smoker, that's always the last choice for me. I'll usually hold onto the butt until I find a trash can, or use a pocket smell-proof ash tray instead.

They will eventually biodegrade, but it just looks trashy to have them on the ground.

> are there any smokers on HN who can explain the phenomenon?

Smokers aren't exactly known for their good judgement, manners and consideration for others in the first place, are they?

Smoking is addiction that is demonstrably bad for your health and has no benefits.

I grew up in an environment where smoking was encouraged and I can understand a person that conforms to their buddies. I have personally never tasted it but when I was teen virtually everybody smoked and it took a lot of willpower to withstand the pressure.

I think these days, in western world, except for schools, low income neighborhoods and low income jobs to be smoking means you have not enough willpower to end it. I would say most middle class people and office workers do not encourage smoking or will actively discourage it and smoking is mostly treated as a disease.

No benefits?

> The heaviest smokers, with everything else being equal, had about half the number of parasitic eggs in their stool, compared to everyone else

> Smoking kills. But if you’re a bird and if you want to kill parasites, that can be a good thing. City birds have taken to stuffing their nests with cigarette butts to poison potential parasites.

> 8 intestinal parasite species have been recovered singly or in combinations from 146 (61.8 %) samples. The prevalence in prison population (88/121 = 72.7%) was significantly higher than that in tobacco farm (58/115 = 50.4%).

(from https://evolutionistx.wordpress.com/2018/04/18/did-tobacco-b..., which is basically just a collection of these quotes)

The reason smoking gives you a lower parasite load is surprisingly intuitive: parasites often move through the body by using the circulatory system, which is, after all, a transportation network designed to reach every part of the body.

The circulatory system, for business logic reasons, is a star topology which connects every point to every other point through a single central hub, the lungs.

As far as I can tell, the references you gave do not support your implication that there are benefits to nicotine smoking.

"The heaviest smokers" refers to THC smokers, not nicotine, which is the topic at hand. It may be that nicotine smoking does the same, but your reference does not show that that has been demonstrated outside of a Petri dish.

The "no benefits" refers to human health, not birds. Even with humans, smoking benefits the wealth of the cigarette manufacturer, which may lead to better health. But that also was not the point.

The prison/tobacco leaf development farm comparison cannot be used to judge the effect of nicotine smoking on one's health. For one, the paper does not mention which population smoked more, nor does it report nicotine levels in the stool samples. For all we know, the prison population may smoke 4x more than the farm workers. Or 1/4th as much.

The "In vitro anthelmintic effect of Tobacco" paper described in your link refers to study in a Petri dish of aqueous and alcoholic extracts of tobacco. It describes how "Dried leaves, stalks and the whole herb of tobacco are widely used as an anti inflammatory, antirheumatic and anthelmintic agent" and cites other papers which use nicotine extracts. This paper therefore cannot be used to conclude there is a beneficial in vivo effect of smoking tobacco.

Lastly, while the blood does indeed go through the lungs, it is wrong to say "a single central hub", as the heart is also a central hub.

- They may not prove that there are benefits to smoking tobacco, but they certainly do support the idea.

- The claim is that smoking cigarettes has benefits, not that smoking nicotine does.

- The idea of calling the lungs a single central hub is, as you acknowledge, that in order to move through the circulatory system it is necessary to pass through the lungs. There is no alternative route which offers the chance to bypass the lungs. If the heart were also a central hub, it would be possible for blood to move from an extremity to the heart and back out to another extremity without passing through the lungs, but of course in reality it isn't. Drawing the blood flow network, if you wanted to distinguish the heart from the lungs, you'd need to place the lungs node between a node for the right heart and another node for the left heart.

Those papers neither support nor reject the idea. At best it is "suggestive."

As I pointed out, with the prisoner/tobacco farmer case you must know the rate of smoking in both populations in order to make any sort of preliminary statement, because 4x vs. 1/4x gives you totally different interpretation, yes? But that information wasn't given. Therefore you cannot draw a conclusion either way from that study.

There may be other reasons for a difference between inhaled vs. ingested nicotine.

It may be that nicotine, when processed by stomach acid, results in a compound which causes the effects seen, and that inhalation does not produce the same results.

Or, since we are talking about parasites in the digestive system, it may be that the nicotine must reach the parasites directly. As you point out, the nicotine which goes through the lungs can enter the bloodstream directly. However, does that nicotine then get released to where the parasites are? The intestines usually work the other way.

I could probably come up with a few more differences if I thought about it. That's why those paper do not support the conjecture.

You wrote "The claim is that smoking cigarettes has benefits, not that smoking nicotine does". However, 1) this post is specifically about tobacco cigarette butts ("Those discarded filters usually contain synthetic fibers and hundreds of chemicals used to treat tobacco"), 2) this thread of the post seems specifically directed to tobacco smokers (woodruffw asked "smokers on HN" why so many smokers "flick their cigarettes into gutters and on streets" - observed events are much more due to tobacco smokers), and 3) you replied to lmilcin, who wrote "Smoking is addiction that is demonstrably bad for your health and has no benefits. ... I grew up in an environment where smoking was encouraged ... when I was teen virtually everybody smoked ...".

It is clear that lmilcin specifically means tobacco smoking. There are very few places/cultures in the "western world" (quoting lmilcim) where 'virtually everybody' smokes marijuana, clove cigarettes, or other herbal cigarettes. A quick check of lmilcin's history finds https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18440363 saying "I am Pole", so lmilcin is almost certainly talking about Poland. Therefore, it's definitely a comment about tobacco cigarette smoking.

If you really believed the thread was about any sort of smoking, then you could have simply pointed out that some herbal cigarettes are not addictive as your counter-example.

I'm contrasting smoking cigarettes with vaping. I think those are significantly different things, and that it's very possible that the pure nicotine exposure you'd get from vaping does not contribute as much antiparasitic effect as you'd get from smoking a tobacco cigarette.

If you don't believe that the separate showings that

- smoking marijuana lowers parasite load

- workers on a tobacco plantation have lower parasite loads than prisoners

- tobacco has strong antiparasitic effects

do not constitute support for the idea that smoking tobacco lowers parasite load, then all I can say is that you're being intentionally obtuse. They are strong evidence that (1) Tobacco has antiparasitic effects (this is just the third result), and (2) smoking is an effective delivery method for antiparasitic treatments. That's what support looks like.

They don't conclusively establish that smoking is an effective delivery method for the antiparasitic effect of tobacco in specific. But that's a much stronger showing than "support" requires.

"I'm contrasting smoking cigarettes with vaping"

How am I supposed to know that? Vaping wasn't brought up on any of the g'parents of this thread, and I don't see the relevance. Nor did the papers you referenced discuss vaping.

"smoking marijuana lowers parasite load" - I pointed out that the person you were responding to (lmilcin) was specifically talking about smoking tobacco. I wrote that the study "refers to THC smokers, not nicotine, which is the topic at hand".

If we broaden the topic to THC then I am fully in agreement with the statement that there are benefits to smoking marijuana. However, as the source NPR article says: "Of course, this result is a simple correlation. Hagen doesn't know if the THC in the men's system is actually keeping the parasitic worms at bay. And taking a few pills is a much easier way to get rid of intestinal worms." If the research scientist on the project doesn't know if it's true, why do you think it's true?

I am in agreement with the statement "workers on a tobacco plantation have lower parasite loads than prisoners". But lmilcin's posting was specifically about the effect of smoking. What if none of the tobacco farm workers smoked, while 100% of the prisoners smoked? Wouldn't that show that tobacco smoking does not have a beneficial effect on intestinal parasites? So you tell me, what percentage of each population smoked?

I am in agreement with the statement "tobacco has ... antiparasitic effects". However, the papers you indirectly referenced specifically concerned ingesting liquid solutions of tobacco. They did not mention smoking. As I pointed out, there are several mechanisms where ingestion might work while inhaling does not. Therefore those papers cannot be used to contradict the assertion that tobacco smoking has no health benefits.

You write "smoking is an effective delivery method for antiparasitic treatments".

Which of the papers described smoking as an effective delivery method for antiparasitic treatments? I have read the original publications and not found the conclusion you describe, nor do they support evolutionistx's hypothesis.

Since it's so clear to you, could you quote the relevant text from those publications which supports your conclusion?

If smoking marijuana lowers parasite load, then smoking is an effective delivery method for the antiparasitic effect of smoking marijuana. You typed it yourself in this very comment.

Yes, and if smoking cured cancer then smoking would be an effective way of curing cancer.

Problem is, you need to demonstrate that your claim is true, otherwise you're begging the question.

I agree that 1) if you widen the topic beyond the original claim, which was specifically about tobacco smoking, and 2) if you assume the correlation implies causation, then sure, you're right.

Except as I've now pointed out several times:

1) the comment you replied to was specifically about tobacco smoking, and trivially disproved if you (mistakenly) expand it to all types of smoking; and

2) neither the lead scientist quoted in the NPR piece nor the actual paper make the claim that smoking marijuana lowers parasite load, only that there is a correlation. Again, quoting the NPR piece, the lead scientist "doesn't know if the THC in the men's system is actually keeping the parasitic worms at bay".

Therefore, how do you know that smoking marijuana lowers parasite load? Please quote the relevant study.

Is this really the hill you want to die on?

there are tons of benefits which is why people do it

I'm not sure why you are being downvoted because there are very clearly benefits to smoking in the form of stimulation and relaxation. Many people get started with smoking because it provides these benefits. People shouldn't do it because the overall risk profile is highly negative given the health impacts, but to say there are no benefits frames the problem completely incorrectly.

I'm one of the sorta-fortunate (I guess) ones who almost never got any pleasure out of cigarettes. Something about my physical composition doesn't jibe well with them. A handful of times when the air was super humid, I was intoxicated in some way and/or my body was in a certain equilibrium, I experienced the enjoyment, but the rest of the time (~95%) they made me feel worse. I was still stupid enough to keep doing it for social reasons way longer than I should have.

My small experiments with cannabis have made me wonder how tobacco possibly could have ever become more popular, the former's effects are much more noticeable with a vastly smaller amount of smoke and can be quite pleasant.

Tobacco had a longstanding religious significance here in North America, that's how I was first introduced to it and I still appreciate it as part of sweat lodges or similar events. It makes more sense to me viewed in that light, a good analogy might be the bread and wine of a catholic mass.

Such as?

A social network with other smokers in proximity. Regular breaks from work that they don't forget to make. Regular time outside of a sealed office space..

There are definite short term advantages to smokers. There (_)used to be similar short term advantages for those who drank during work hours when it was socially acceptable.

(_ Used to might be wrong.. Startups with designated drinking times that seem to be mandatory are annoying but not irrational given their short term interests.)

Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I'm lucky that at my current job none of us smoke and still regularly take quick walks outside of the office. I guess it helps that every room has a door that goes directly outside.

Nicotine has stimulant & nootropic effects:


Tobacco also naturally contains, in addition to the nicotine, other compounds that act like MAOIs - ie, as antidepressants:


Probably that it feels good. Same reason people do anything addictive.

Doesn't it feel good in a similar way that scratching an itch does in that its more a temporary relief from suffering instead of feeling good all the time?

I hear death has some great benefits too, everyone's doing it.

You probably didn't mean to be correct, but it happened anyway. A virus is immortal. The macro-organisms we're all familiar with will age and die even under ideal circumstances; there is no fundamental reason for this to be necessary. But we evolved to do it because it offered advantages over the more traditional ageless immortality.

Germany is definitely not western world then. 50% of adults can't say no to a cigarette.

Even in Germany, only 24.5% of adults smoke (old data from 2013, nowadays probably a lot less).

"Microcensus"... Other sources state >50% smokers (not just heavy ones)

I can perhaps see your point for judgment, simply since smoking isn’t great for one’s health (though I don’t see any reason to believe that extends to their overall judgment), but what makes you think that manners and consideration have any correlation? Consider that, by definition, you’re never bothered by all the smokers who avoid smoking in inconsiderate locations.

Everybody knows who the smokers are, even if they don't witness them smoking, so this old selection bias argument doesn't apply. (It's because smokers universally reek.)

Are you saying it’s inconsiderate for people to not smell how you want them to smell? I don’t think I have any right to expect other people to smell a certain way or to not have a detectable smell, barring obvious extreme cases of avoidable bad hygiene.

You know that smell is literally fumes that cause cancer, right?

Any nobody said it was infringing on any rights - we said it was inconsiderate.

I’m sure there is some cancer risk from simply smelling the clothes of a smoker, but I would need to see some research of the magnitude of the risk. I would be shocked if it’s enough to even be measurable.

I didn’t use the word “right” to imply that any rights were being violated. I used it to claim what I believe to be reasonable expectations for other people’s behavior, which seems like a natural definition for what behavior is “inconsiderate.”

> inconsiderate: thoughtlessly causing hurt or inconvenience to others.

Smokers are inconsiderate because they thoughtlessly cause harm or inconvenience to others by smelling offensive. They brush off the objections of all non-smokers and tell the rest of the world to fuck off because they selfishly prefer smoking to not causing olfactory offense.

This is how I feel about almost all scented products - shampoo, air freshener, cologne, incense. However, many people think they are being polite by spreading these offensive chemicals on themselves with the intention of making other people inhale them.

It’s very difficult to explain to people that their scents are making you ill and forcing you to leave the room, rinse your sinuses or stay 5+ feet away from them. Mercifully some workplaces have no-fragrance policies. Elsewhere, my health-driven preferences get absolutely no attention or respect. People get offended and embarrassed especially since they think they are doing this to make themselves more presentable. It is far better to not say anything.

Oddly, cigarette smells and body odor do not bother me at all.

So, given that attitude, hope you don’t use dryer sheets.

I couldn't agree more!

I assure you that not all non-smokers find the mere smell of a smoker’s clothes as offensive as you apparently do. There are lots of smells that I don’t like, particularly the smells of certain foods. I don’t call people who cook or eat those foods inconsiderate.

The stench of a smoker is widely considered offensive. This is not some weird personal quirk on my part, and I'm certain you know that.

Even smokers in other threads here complain how cigarette butts smell.

Since this comment has gone far afield of the original topic (cigarette butts as litter), I want to see you complain about the inconsiderateness of people wearing perfume and of people that smell of smoke after they sit around campfires.

> "I want to see you complain about the inconsiderateness of people wearing perfume and of people that smell of smoke after they sit around campfires."

People who wear perfume have the excuse of believing they were being considerate, their fault is ignorance not selfishness. No smoker can earnestly claim they made themselves smell like an ash tray because they believed other people would appreciate it.

As for camp fires, if somebody fails to bath before coming into the office after spending the weekend camping, that is a very clear cut case of poor hygiene, which of course is very inconsiderate.

Are you happy now? Do you think the reputation of smokers has been rehabilitated thanks to your digressions? That smokers are notorious for liter is a consequence of their notorious personality defect of being inconsiderate. They don't care about how their actions impact those around them. That's why they liter. That's why they picked up a habit that makes them smell like an ash tray.

You are acting as an apologist for every scent that you personally don't mind. You are the one who digressed away from pollution to odor.

Let go of your hate, please. And please stop conflating odor with pollution, it is not becoming of you.

>You are acting as an apologist for every scent that you personally don't mind.

On the contrary, I defended the moral character of people who wear perfume, not the stench of perfume, since they do not categorically possess the same moral defect as smokers. (And I didn't defend in any way people who smell like campfires. People who go camping should bath before presenting themselves in public, they have absolutely no excuse.) Did you even read my post or did you assume the contents of it?

Which each passing year, as cigarette smoking becomes less and less popular, the portion of the population who hate for the stench of people who smoke will only rise. A majority of the public in first world nations agrees with me, and that's not going to diminish. Smokers are left with a choice, either they change or they weather the hate they rightfully get from the rest of us.

"Moral defect"? Please, leave that tired language in the 19th century. I reject your appeal to popularity as well.

I don't like tobacco smoke either, but I think you're judging a lot of people way more harshly than is healthy for public discourse.

You never drove in a ICE vehicle, took a plane, used electricity or used electronics or any other industrially created goods?

But I didn't claim anything about myself.

> "Are you saying it’s inconsiderate for people to not smell how you want them to smell?"

That's not what I was saying, but actually that's also true. Good point. Smelling like a smoker is itself inconsiderate behavior.

What I was actually saying is that smokers are generally inconsiderate people. This can be generally observed by interacting with the general public and noticing that people who smell like smokers are almost always inconsiderate people. You don't need to witness an inconsiderate person smoking to know they're a smoker, because the human nose can detect smokers easily. And just so we're clear, not all inconsiderate people are smokers, but very nearly all smokers are inconsiderate.

Now that I think about this more, there is a plausible relationship here: everybody knows that smoking makes you smell awful, so only people who are inclined towards being inconsiderate will pick up the habit.

> "right"

In most free countries, it is your right to be inconsiderate. It's not the right of any smoker to be free of criticism.

> Smelling like a smoker is itself inconsiderate behavior.

I will straight up disagree with you there, and we can probably avoid a semantic argument over what “inconsiderate” means and just call it a day. In summary, I think “inconsiderate” ought only apply to behaviors that sufficiently violate the expectations of society, or in other words, just because you don’t like a behavior does not mean that behavior is inconsiderate.

The rest of your comment is fairly ridiculous. Surely you haven’t actually counted every smoker you have met. It’s much more likely that you are simply disproportionately noticing smokers who are bothering you.

A smoker does not go undetected simply by being considerate, the smoker's smell will give them away no matter how they behave. And I am very far from the only person who's noticed the smoker/inconsiderate connection.

Your own comment doesn't display any of those traits.

Speak for yourself!

umm yes. no idea the butt was not bio-degradable. also i don't just toss the butt everywhere i can. i learned that many unexpected fires were due to ciggs.

Honestly I have always just attributed it to most smokers being rude and selfish. The same reason why they never bother to ask if it's OK to start emitting poisonous smoke near you.

Or into nature :-(


It is of course rational to throw trash when you don't give a fuck. The parent question is more about why people that do give a fuck otherwise, would flick and stomp their discarded cigarette buts.

The question is interesting precisely because it falls outside the output you would get from a heuristic algo of "good people don't litter", "bad people do".

The next time you pass through a public restroom, count how many paper towels are on the floor. It doesn’t matter if it’s male or female. The results are always the same.

If the bathroom provides paper towels, there’s almost always a non-zero quantity of wet paper towels stuck to the floor. If the bathroom only has electric hot air hand driers, there will be none.

How do the paper towels get on the floor? The bathroom likely gets cleaned once a day. Probably at night.

So, the next day, someone, anyone, drops the first paper towel of the day for some reason, any reason, and leaves it there. It stays there the rest of the day. More follow, all accumulating until someone cleans the whole bathroom at the end of the day.

Who are these people? Why don’t they just fucking pick up the paper towels they careless permit to fall onto the floor?

But to complain about such things is to scream at the tide. You can admit that paper towels are not something a public restroom should put into the hands of random strangers who have no incentive to change their behavior. You can place paper towels within reach, and throw people in jail for their messy carelessness, or you can hire a janitor.

Or you can just let wet paper towels cover the floor, absorbing every form of moisture available on the floor of a typical public restroom.

This one is a lot easier to model though isn’t it? If you accidentally drop a paper towel, the “psychological cost” of rising it from the floor is astronomically more than just using it - it would have floor dirt all over it. So it can easily go over your “nice person” threshold. Especially if as you’ve mentioned, there will be more towels on the floor - the broken windows theory.

All of this is exasperated by the general fear of dirt in western cultures, which leads to a lot of other well documented ill effects, especially in children. People are just way too grossed out to actually clean up, if there are no tools to do so in a clean manner.

All easy to explain, and you are right - if you do remove the littering option for people, and give them a reasonable alternative, they will litter less.

But the cigarette butts? They have only the “there’s some on the floor so it must be ok” going for them. But even so it seems rather weird.

If nothing else I appreciate your honesty.

People are assholes to smokers. Like, it's socially acceptable to be assholes to smokers these days.

I've had random people on an almost daily basis harass me for smoking. Flicking my butts on the ground was a big fuck you to all of the non smokers that harassed me.

Yeah, see - I've had a great deal of experience with smokers, including my close friend past me. People who smoke get high on tobacco, which makes them feel good. Right? Well, it makes them feel good even when they're crapping all around them and then they're all surprised.

I'm sorry but are you five or something?

There are very good reasons to treat smokers negatively and you, completely without shame, gave us another one.

Just out of curiosity, do you also think its totally fine to treat fat people negatively? Ugh. The amount of vitriol in this whole comment section towards smokers is disturbing. Almost every smoker I know picked up the habit in their early teens. A habit which is extremely addicting, and very hard to kick, more so the longer you've been doing it. Being shitty to them certainly wont help.

At the macro level first they were shuffled out doors, which was fine but sucks when the weather is poor. Then it was no smoking in bars, in your own home, within 50 meters of a door (good luck in a packed in city). Then it was "we don't hire smokers, even ones who don't smoke while they are at work". Then it was oh you switched to vaping because it doesn't smell as bad, has a much lower health risk but we're even going to be shitty to you for trying that.

Maybe, just maybe we should try to remember that these folks are PEOPLE and still deserve to be treated with a modicum of decency, the same as we do for the poor, the overweight, members of the opposite sex, those of different gender identities and sexual preferences and so on and so forth. Or would you prefer everyone go back to being shitty to anyone else who wasn't a carbon copy of themselves?

>Then it was no smoking in bars, in your own home, within 50 meters of a door (good luck in a packed in city).

what country/city is this? most places I've been don't have such limits or is limited to 9m at most

>Then it was "we don't hire smokers, even ones who don't smoke while they are at work". Then it was oh you switched to vaping because it doesn't smell as bad, has a much lower health risk but we're even going to be shitty to you for trying that.

I'm skeptical that this happens at any significant level.

>Maybe, just maybe we should try to remember that these folks are PEOPLE and still deserve to be treated with a modicum of decency, the same as we do for the poor, the overweight, members of the opposite sex, those of different gender identities and sexual preferences and so on and so forth.

some of the things in the list are unlike the others.

smoking/overweight: you have control over, and can take steps to stop it

everything else: you have no control over

50 meters was an exaggeration. 25 feet is common.

I can assure you that the "we don't hire smokers" is indeed a thing. It became so much of a thing in the 90s that many states had to actually pass laws preventing the descrimination: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoker_protection_law

21 states still do not prevent such discrimination, with Washington being one of them. You'd be shocked at how many jobs in the Seattle area discriminate against smokers.

point made on the choice vs no choice thing but my point wasn't about choice it was about how we as a society have collectively decided for the most part not to shit on people and that includes those with an addiction. Also minor nit but being poor is not completely outside of ones control in the majority of cases.

> Maybe, just maybe we should try to remember that these folks are PEOPLE and still deserve to be treated with a modicum of decency

Purely anecdotal, but this is happening far too often: it's a bad weather day, waiting under the 5m long city tram station's getting protected from the rain, then someone comes and sit right next to me, lightning it's damn cigarette like there was absolutely no problem.

This is the kind of behavior that makes you actually forget that "these folks are people and still deserve to be treated with a modicum of decendy", because they clearly don't give a shit about others themselves.

So to clarify... its rainy outside. You don't want to get wet. They don't want to get wet. They are only allowed to smoke outside. I'm not saying its not a dick move mind you, but maybe consider that they too wanted to be comfortable and outside is the only place they are allowed to smoke.

What if my hobby was to juggle stinky shit? Should everyone around accept me, my dirty hands and my clothes stained and reeking of shit, if I decided to relax juggling shit during a work break?

I view smokers in the same way. It's a smelly habit that affects everyone around you, and you can't be surprised that you are liked less by some because of it.

Nope, they can smoke at home, literally 5min before (the are grown adults). Or walk to the other side on the street, 10 meters away, and smoke under a shelter. Or maybe just skip that one cigarette. Or bring an umbrella. I'll stop here.

No, there's no excuses. It's just a case of not having any interest in the other human right next to you.

So in your mind, the only way this guy can not be an asshole is if he prioritizes your preferences over his own, but you don't apply this same litmus to yourself. You could walk across the street. You could bring an umbrella. You could decide that second hand smoke from a single cigarette in an open area outside will have effectively zero health consequences for you and maybe to just let it go this one time. Again I actually agree with you that he is kinda being a dick, the point of my previous comment and this one is I find it odd that you have one set of standards for how others should treat your desires and a completely separate one for the way you handle theirs.

> but you don't apply this same litmus to yourself. You could walk across the street. You could [...]

Please stop making assumptions.

I'm actually walking across the street, every single time. I let it go, every single time.

At the end of the day, it's me who's going threw the loop "hell, he could have asked if it was ok at least - nevermind I won't make a fuss", while in those heads its "NEED NICOTIN RITNOW - GET NICOTTIIIIIIN".

> I find it odd that you have one set of standards for how others should treat your desires and a completely separate one for the way you handle theirs.

You're wrong. I'm handling their desire very dearly: I walk away and let them smoking how they desire. And then I'm thinking privately (and publicly here) that this is very unfair indeed, because they don't care about my own standard.

I don't think it's worth pursuing this "you don't see the beam in your own eye" kind of argumentation, because in this very specific case my eye is pristine.

I am generally on your side of the fence- I think we forget smokers are also people- but where you choose to smoke is still an active choice. Most of the ire I see directed at smokers is for smoking around pregnant women, infants, and in public places they aren't supposed to be smoking. And for all the cigarette butts. All of these things are active choices.

By calling it a choice you misunderstand what the word addiction means. It's like blaming an overweight person for being overweight because they could not make the choice to put the fork down. It's a choice, right?

Read my post again. WHERE you smoke is a choice. And your behavior & deference while smoking is also a choice.

If fat people were misting other people with lard and dropping half eaten sandwiches on the ground everywhere they went, I assure you they'd get as much hate as smokers. The treatment smokers get is well deserved. They are not victims.

This thread all illustrates my point.

> I'm sorry but are you five or something?

Do you not see the hypocrisy? If you re-read your own comment without the above line, it's much more powerful. By adding it your are only continuing the cycle of people being asses to each other, in this case name calling.

There really is no good reason to treat others negatively.

Being an asshole to assholes... makes you an asshole regardless.

An essential part of civility is pointing out acts of incivility.

In contrast, many moderns seem to believe that merely acknowledging the possibility of incivility, is itself the height of incivility. But that's nihilism, not civility.

If you don't curb incivil behavior somehow, you are effectively encouraging it -- that's because often they have something to gain from it. Despite morals and goodness of people, if something incivil unequivocally leads to gain, it will become the norm. A social backlash is a collective way to fight it and align the ethical with the "rational" (in the many situations where the law isn't applicable).

Now that I think about it, there's been some interesting research that explores where the threshold for such flip-flops in mores are; but I have no handy link to that. Anthropology has shown that some societies which value viciousness and cheating exist and are stable. I gots no handy link for that, either, however.

It's a vicious cycle. That's kind of my point. Smokers are assholes because they were harassed. Non-smokers harass smokers because they are polluting assholes.

Your theory falls apart when you remember that smokers were littering and smoking next to pregnant women from the very beginning, generations ago, before they started to get any social pushback at all. Smokers have always behaved like this, their behavior predates the reaction against it. Being inconsiderate comes as naturally to a smoker as singing does to a songbird.

Quote from article:

A leading tobacco industry academic, a California lawmaker and a worldwide surfing organization are among those arguing cigarette filters should be banned. The nascent campaign hopes to be bolstered by linking activists focused on human health with those focused on the environment.

“It’s pretty clear there is no health benefit from filters. They are just a marketing tool. And they make it easier for people to smoke"

I used to smoke rolled cigarettes with mild tobacco without filters (thankfully quit) but I thought they were just as mild as filtered cigarettes. Smokers anyway self-modulate how much they inhale.

I smoked both when I was younger and dumber. Unfiltered cigarettes turn your fingers, lips and teeth brown.

Filtered cigarettes do too, just slower. Look at people who've been smoking for a decade or two: their nails are yellow, their teeth are yellow, the hand holding the cigarette also has visible damage.

I think this is more specific to the tobacco and not the premise of whether it or isn't filtered. People who chew tobacco have similar yellowing of their fingers they use to pinch.

I have heard that throwing a cigarette butt in a water makes 1 cubic meter of water toxic. Can't provide a source though - someone told me that when sailing together.

Toxicity of cigarette butts, and their chemical components, to marine and freshwater fish[1]

[1] - https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/20/Suppl_1/i25

Why do people even smoke cigarettes when there are vapes for those who just want to inhale and exhale a cloud getting nicotine and cigars for those who want to enjoy real tobacco? Cigarettes are disgusting, toxic, expensive (as compared to a supply of liquid) and inconvenient (as you can't just inhale at any time you want). Why non-biodegradable cig filters are still not outlawed is another mystery.

Cigarettes taste like burning paper, and at their best smell just OK, but most smokers aren't walking around with cigarillos, despite the better ones tasting and smelling very nice.

It's about nicotine delivery, and even the new hit with the kids, Juul, seems not as nice as a cigarette to me as a very infrequent nicotine user. Maybe box mods are different, I've only every tried the types of vapes you can get at tobacco shops and gas stations and such.

As a side note, I'm surprised snuff isn't more popular. It gives a noticeable but not overwhelming stimulation, discretely, doesn't have the cultural connotations or need to spit of chew, and seemed a little milder too. I guess putting stuff up your nose has it's own connotations. I also don't even know where you can buy it. Certainly not a gas station.

> It's about nicotine delivery, and even the new hit with the kids, Juul, seems not as nice as a cigarette to me as a very infrequent nicotine user. Maybe box mods are different, I've only every tried the types of vapes you can get at tobacco shops and gas stations and such.

Box mods are indeed different. And you don't really need a box mod, good beginner-level devices (from ~$50 and up) charged with an adequately strong liquid do the job great and don't require any special skill. The devices usually sold at gas stations are worth nothing more than a temporary emergency cigarette replacement and Juul is, you know, for kids. As a very infrequent nicotine user you have no reason to care but if you smoked regularly I'd advice to pay your local specialized vape shop a visit and ask the guys what can they recommend.

> As a side note, I'm surprised snuff isn't more popular.

I've bought some snuff once I've forgotten my vape at home and my impression is it's the best tool to quit smoking! Every time you use it - it's a jump of courage and tears, snot and head-shot feeling after it. It's a so damn strong mentol charge I feel like I'd rather eat a Carolina Reaper. Even though I've taken the box that doesn't mention menthol.

Snuff taken the way I know it, under the upper lip, gives a slower hit but a much stronger hit than cigarettes.

What I wonder is about the new "vape-like" pens which heats (real) tobacco but doesn't burn it. If that is similar enough to cigarettes to win cigarette smokers over. I would think so, but I'm not a real smoker (only tried a few times) so can't offer my own anecdata.

> What I wonder is about the new "vape-like" pens which heats (real) tobacco but doesn't burn it.

I see many people around using it nowadays but I'm sure I wouldn't prefer this over a good vape and I've also heard it's dangerous as it may also be heating the filter together with the tobacco so you actually inhale extra toxines.

BTW about vapes - although I believe these are generally healthier than any kind of cigarettes (and so do many doctors unofficially) I've heard many liquids (usually flavoured like vanilla, maple, coconut or caramel) contain diacetyl, pentanedione and/or acetoin so you can "popcorn lung" syndrome (which is much more dangerous than what ordinary cigs do) quickly [1]

[1] http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/e-cigarette-...

The one I saw (ploom?) was intended for loose tobacco.

If it's anything like weed, than actually less similar to cigarettes than existing vapes.

Sniffing snuff is much stronger than cigarettes but less intense I would say. Like if you don't smoke a cigarette could give you the spins, but in a few minutes you're ok. I have had a few sniffs of snuff, and then a few hours later still felt a bit up, and had trouble sleeping. Unlike chewing or dipping though, I think it's hard to accidentally have way too much.

I may have some insight here. As a smoker that's trying to quit (14 days clean so far), a Juul just doesn't appeal to me - I'd rather quit than switch. Apart from the nicotine addiction, smoking involves a lot of rituals - for example, I personally choose a lucky[1], and I love the sound and smells of striking the Zippo that I carried. A Juul doesn't offer those experiences, and cigars are much too heavy for me to smoke daily.

This scene from Frasier is spot on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptqRrwvYVTs&t=126

1: https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=lucky%20ciga...

Turns out drug addicts aren't super rational

But last week it was fishing gear.

Although, it's bullshit that so many smokers think it's perfectly OK to throw their butts just about anywhere.

In the UK it can be met with a £80 fine but I've never heard of anyone (other than the sensationalist news articles in the likes of The Sun) ever getting hit with it. I guess it's not worth the red tape for police to hand out fines.

> I guess it's not worth the red tape for police to hand out fines.

It's not normally police who issue the penalty notice, but local council staff. This means there's a lot of variation across the country. Some councils outsource this to companies who are a bit too vigorous in giving penalty notices. The aim is to prevent litter, not to raise revenue, so they're supposed to give you a chance to pick up your litter to avoid the fine but some don't do that.


The advice about when to, and when not to, issue FPNs covers the point about giving people the opportunity to pick up litter: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/enforcement-officers-issuing-fix...

> so they're supposed to give you a chance to pick up your litter to avoid the fine but some don't do that.

That seems like an ineffective mechanism. Just litter and pick it up in the very rare cases where you get called out.

If I were council dictator for a day, I would make the fines stiff and immediate but require that 100%^1 of the revenues are refunded to all residents at the end of each year.

That way there's still a stiff disincentive to littering, but no significant incentive for abusive/dishonest enforcement.

[^1]: (perhaps sans some low and more importantly fixed amount to cover enforcement costs)

I have been hit with it in London... so it definitely exists.

Makes friday drinks (and being stupid and inconsiderate) way more expensive (it was £85).

I always thought cigarette butts were something that are harmless and break down easily.

I know people who were hit with it, and I don't feel sorry for them at all.

I think nothing should beat plastics used for food /bevs, but who knows.

I wonder what a world where molecular level tagging of products combined with penalties for illegal disposal would look like?

I’ve also been seeing JUUL butts / fake USB drives piling up all over NYC.

They really ought to have a desposit or recycling program for those.

Honk + Thumbs Down at any driver you see tossing one out the window. Public shaming (not anger like a middle finger) can be very effective.

That said, this is probably 90% China as we saw with the ocean plastics source data. Not sure if this approach would work there.

Maybe there's an opportunity for cigarette manufacturers to capitalize on compostable filters? Can it be done?

Roll your own from pure tobacco without a filter, saves your health, wallet and the environment.

This is answered in the article. The startup Greenbutts has developed it.

There is a company, TerraCycle, that has a cigarette recycling program:


Fun fact, this same company had a tv show: https://itunes.apple.com/us/tv-season/human-resources-season...

More info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TerraCycle

This reads as a good news somehow, because it sounds like a solvable problem.

That's because it's a thinly veiled ad for a San Diego-based startup, which the "news" agency failed to disclose as much.

I quit years ago, so not sure but, don't vaporizers are much more convenient and less harming (avoiding tar)? Guess price is worse or I don't understand why they haven't wiped out cigarrettes.

Less harmful yes, more convenient no. You can grab a pack of cigarettes at any gas station but vaping requires a little more planning in most cases. You have to find and go to a specialty shop (vape shop) or order online. This probably doesn't sound like a huge deal but if you've been smoking for a decade + and are used to a refill being as simple as dropping into any corner store you don't develop the habit of planning ahead.

Also while there was a brief moment in time where switching to vaping gave you the ability to go back inside, that was pretty much wiped out within 2 or so years of the devices gaining popularity as people treat vapers just as shitty as they treat smokers, perhaps even more so.

As to price, it can go either way depending on how you do it. If you are picking up eJuice by the bottle you can actually save quite a bit of money compared to traditional cigarettes. If you are using a pod system like JUUL you either break even or lose money in comparison. I kind of switch back and forth because while the juice option is cheaper its also messier and more inconvenient, where something like a JUUL is a lot closer to the experience of a regular cigarette. Tiny stick in your pocket with disposable pods vs giant eVapeDick that needs you to stop and disassemble it to fill it or change out the atomizer and blows giant unnecessary clouds.

Source: 25 year smoker, switched to vaping in 2010.

How is it 2019 and tobacco is not illegal?

Literally grandfathered in :/

I want all the things I don't like to be illegal.

I have something of a rule re friends - if I see them doing something I would simply never, ever do (for ethical reasons) then whether it's a small thing or a big one; I end the friendship. I know a much bigger ethical lapse will be coming. When I've bent this rule, as I did for one fellow I liked a lot who tossed his butts wherever, I found out a couple of years later that I'd have been much better off dropping him out of my life the first time he tossed a butt.

By mass or quantity?

By who pays the person, it seems like a promotional article. The article is a joke. Just because it floats on beaches doesn't mean the entire ocean is polluted the same way. Also we already know what is floating in the oceans, there are numerous studies.

Could be by damage

Yea. Ocean pollution is a problem. But using amount / volume collected is (for me) a misleading metric.

Plaatics (floating everywhere)? Micro-plastics? Chemicals (that can't be collected)? All come to mind.

At the risk of sounding like a cynic / conspiracy theorist, this particular take on the issue feels as if it came out of the covert comms dept of Big Oil.

Would it be possible to embed an rf (or otherwise) ID into every single piece of non organic matter?

Some kind of code that gets assigned to you when you buy the items. And if those items are found in nature, then you are fined.


Another way to deal with this problem is to simply get rid of filters. Let people that smoke die from cancer earlier & maybe fewer people will smoke. Maybe offer a re-usable filter?

Now I'm imagining those long cigarette holders from the classic movies making a comeback. Funny image.

Won’t be surprised if plastic quickly surpasses cigarette butts. Literally everything is plastic, meanwhile the shift is away towards electronics like JUUL.

I naively thought vapes would at least leave cleaner streets than cigarettes. Lately I’ve been seeing plastic juul cartridges littering the sidewalks in nyc. There’s no winning.

There's no fixing shitty people.

Why don't countries regulate the butts to ensure they are more readily biodegradable?

Is the plan now to add a layer of juul pods?

I wonder, will the same people who demanded that plastic straws go away now attack smokers with similar zeal?

Probably not, because the large majority of homeless people are smokers, and they've got enough troubles.


The most effective portable ashtray I saw, was when it was handed out on a festival: they were the classic analog camera film canisters, they close really airtight.

To adress the dumping of cigeratte filters not buds, why not simply put ever larger return deposits (like many nations have on certain glass bottles etc) on the filters? If your pack of cigarettes cost say $20, but $30 dollars extra for the filters, then smokers will keep their filters and turn them in when they buy their new pack. OK, a lot of people behave irrationally when drinking while smoking, but some of the present smokers will still be cheap enough to collect all the filters that people leave in the local ashtray instead of in their portable ones... The difference is between $50 or $20 for the next pack of cigarettes. Use the same per filter price for loose filters for the people who roll cigarettes.


I am addicted to smoking, and smoke cigarettes without filter. As far as I understand both paper and tobacco biodegrade. On the street I throw the butts (not filters!) in the gutters, preferentially through the grid straight into the sewer.

I have had many discussions with other smokers, and there is a guaranteed subject that returns: whenever the taxes and hence prices of tobacco products rise a fraction of the previous cost. Just like the smokers are addicted to the cigarettes, the tobacco companies and the government are "addicted to the smokers" or rather: exploit the smokers.

Over ten years that I smoke the price has more than tripled perhaps quadrupled (Belgium, Europe). The justification behind increasing the prices is always to encourage people to stop smoking. The discussion I have with these other smokers whenever the price has risen always ends with the same conclusion: they don't want us to stop smoking, they just want to extract more money by using small increments, and letting us get accustomed to the new price. We always reach the conclusion it would be better to not let the price rise for a couple of years and then double the price of tobacco products. A lot of people would stop simply because they don't economically agree to the new price, and many who want to stop but have a hard time because their friends are still smoking would have an easier time because it would synchronize our efforts to stop smoking. Obviously that will lead to a substantial loss of income to both tobacco industry and government, who are sponsoring various cancer treatments (both tobacco related and unrelated cancers) with the income from tobacco products. The "beautiful" aspect is that in contrast to non-addictive products the lobbyists for tobacco companies don't even need to bribe government, since government has been co-opted through taxation.

If we really wish to clear up the cigarette filters, stop smoking, and lower future health care costs we should look at the "half-life" of cigarettes/euro, and keep the price constant but double it every such half-life. That would really give all smokers a memento mori to reconsider our habits, ... but similarily it would also force tobacco industry and government to kick off the lucrative income from smokers!

As a smoker (but otherwise a very stubborn person) I can tell you we don't have the spine to quit, certainly not on the basis of a 5% increasee in price! Whack us with a price doubling! Then nearly all my friends who smoke, and unknown people I may meet at performances, events, bars would stop in synchrony.


Wasn't the mass introduction of filters at least partially a marketing ploy minimize the health concerns as they started to rise in public perception? How effective are filters really? Are those smokers who were intimidated into buying more expensive and "healthier" cigarettes by both industry and family (indirectly still industry) really the cause of the current widespread pollution of these filters? Or were it the marketers, similar to all the pollution of plastic water bottles? A marketing ploy in the quest for money, with the side effect of polluting nature?

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