Abingdon Police Department
For Immediate Release
Put Your Butt Where It Belongs!
If you smoke, please put your cigarette butts in the ash tray —not out the car window, not in the gutter, not on the street, not on the lawn, and not in our streams.
Cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate, a plastic that degrades slowly in the environment. Filters are designed to trap carcinogenic chemicals that smokers don’t want in their lungs and bloodstream. Littered butts are blown by wind and storm water runoff into nearby water bodies. Cancer causing agents in the filters leak into aquatic ecosystems, threatening the quality of the water and aquatic life. Cigarette filters have been found in the stomachs of fish and birds who mistake them for food.
According to Keep America Beautiful, Inc., smokers litter about 4.5 trillion cigarette butts yearly. Smoldering cigarette butts tossed from car windows can easily ignite leaf piles and cause forest fires. The current dry conditions greatly increase the risk of fire from tossing a burning cigarette from a vehicle window.
Littering is illegal, although most people are unaware of littering fines. Section 33.1-346 of the Code of Virginia makes littering or dumping trash a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine up to $2,500.
Further, Section 10.1-1143 of the Forestry Code makes it unlawful to throw “any lighted smoking material” from a vehicle. This is a Class 2 misdemeanor violation, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and/or a fine up to $1,000. (With either the Class 1 or Class 2 offense, community service can take the place of jail time.)
People who litter are showing their careless disregard for the property and well being of others and the environment. Keep America Beautiful studies have shown that one of the reasons litterbugs feel it is okay to litter is because they believe someone else is paid to clean it up. That’s true. The Virginia Department of Transportation spends about $6.5 million a year on litter control on nearly 57,000 miles of interstate, primary and secondary roads. That’s $6.5 million of taxpayer money that otherwise could have been spent on highway repair projects.
In addition to what VDOT collects, Adopt-a-Highway volunteers pick up about 3 million bags worth of trash annually from 14,000 miles of Virginia’s roads.
Please don’t litter. Put your butt where it belongs—in the ash tray.