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That’s right – we feel incensed when we see discarded bottles or bits of paper blowing along the streets, yet the worst offender is the simple cigarette butt.
The seemly harmless end to the cigarette, casually discarded as you blow out the last of your tobacco inhalation, accounts for 14,000 tonnes of the 25,000 collected annually on Dublin streets.
Whilst bar owners have made efforts to counteract the littering of cigarette butts since the smoking ban was introduced, for example, by adding wall mounted ashtrays at entrances, the amount of cigarette litter increased by 20 per cent in the first year of the ban in 2004, and has steadily climbed year on year.
The smoking gun in this issue definitely lies with the tobacco addicts as 20 per cent of smokers admitted in a Dublin City Council survey that they had thrown butts into the streets, and yet over 65 per cent admitted the issue is a real concern.
The consequences of the problem are extremely serious. Aside from making Dublin streets look filthy and unwelcoming, the risk to human and wildlife health is enormous.
The media have recently jumped on any story that has included e-liquid being accidentally consumed by children or pets. However, this can be easily remedied with a little common sense – storing e-liquids in safe places and adhering to all the warnings on the packaging.
However, hospitals and vets see a large number of cases where children and animals have picked up and swallowed cigarette butts from the pavements – leading to sickness from all the toxins associated with tobacco smoking.
The environmental consequences are also extremely damaging – the butts are made of cellulose acetate, a non-biodegradable plastic, which can take up to 25 years to decompose. These butts are washed into rivers, streams and seas seriously affecting Irish aquatic life.
The problem is also hitting Dubliners in the pocket. Dublin City Council currently devotes 37 million Euro to litter management and this will increase exponentially as the butt issue gets bigger. The next time you see someone flick their butt you know where your taxes are going.Vapers, by comparison, produce no litter. The only butt associated with vapers is the one admired in the 'smirting zone'. With cigarette costs due to rise, and with fines to be imposed for butt flicking, Vapers are set to save even more money by extinguishing their habit to tobacco smoking.
With the government still looking for ways to recuperate the loss of tobacco revenues from the vaping revolution they should begin to examine the long term savings, not just in the health system, but in lateral areas such as litter management. If even 10 million Euro per year on the litter budget could be saved in Dublin by encouraging vaping then imagine the savings that could be made nationally.