Michelle Teheux: Solving the problem of discarded butts

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

No need to thank me, folks, but I’ve solved the problem of cigarette litter.

Recently there have been a lot of complaints about the unsightly piles of discarded cigarette butts some smokers are leaving behind outdoors now that they’ve been kicked out of bars and restaurants.

It’s so easy. We’ll do the same thing we used to do to soda bottles -- charge a deposit.

Can you remember when you used to get a nickel back for every soda bottle you returned? Those were the days. Kids could earn extra money by gathering up the glass bottles and turning them in at the store.

I figure to start, we’ll charge an extra nickel per cigarette, so that’ll be an extra buck per pack. This won’t deter smokers in the least. A more tenacious group I have yet to see. You could charge $12 a pack and most folks would still not quit. Let’s face it, if the threat of an early, painful death won’t convince someone to give up their cigarettes, saving money certainly isn’t going to do it.

If butts are worth a nickel each, the thriftier smokers will stop tossing them out car windows or grinding them under their heel while standing exactly 15 feet from the front door of the bar. They’ll hang onto their empty cigarette packs and drop the butts in there until they’ve collected a few dollars’ worth, at which point they’ll pop into the smoke shop and redeem their butts.

Might even get enough to buy a whole fresh new pack of smokes and start over. (Of course, they’ll have to be careful the butts are extinguished. We don’t want anyone setting their purse or coat pocket on fire.)

Some people won’t care and will keep tossing their butts aside. That’s OK; now enterprising youngsters and homeless people alike will have another income source. They’ll no longer be limited to picking up discarded aluminum cans.

Plus, the people who clean up after litter bugs routinely just to keep their neighborhoods looking nice will actually find their good deeds paying off.

We’ll give it a year, and if we’re still seeing butts thrown everywhere, we’ll increase the deposit to a dime, and keep going until our streets are clean.

But why stop there? Perhaps we ought to do the same with fast-food wrappers, potato chip bags, soda cups, water bottles, etc. They’re just as big a problem as the butts.

Occasionally I have helped pick up litter with the Kiwanis. If you’ve never done this, it’s an eye-opening experience. You would not believe the variety of crap people toss without, apparently, giving a single thought to the environment or to the unsightliness of it all.

Picking up other people’s icky garbage has ensured I’ll never be even a tiny bit tempted to toss my trash. Maybe it’s something we ought to make school kids do a couple of times a year; maybe it’ll give them a life-long distaste for littering.

Like everyone else, I occasionally see someone discard their crap while driving down the street. They seem to do it casually, with an air of entitlement.

It’s at these times that I long for a siren, a badge, and a good, stout nightstick.

If butt deposits don't fix the litter problem, maybe a little butt beating will.

Michelle Teheux can be reached at (309) 346-1111 or