And you probably think this is about cigarettes.  I was recently listening to a concert by Boston back in 1978.  One of their bigger hits was "Smokin'," with lyrics as follows:

We're gonna play you a song, a little bit of rock-n-roll
You gotta let yourself go, the band's gonna take control.
We're gettin' down today
We'll pick you up and take you away
Get down tonight
Smokin', Smokin'
We're cookin' tonight, just keep on tokin'
Smokin', Smokin'
I feel alright, mamma I'm not jokin', yeah.

Rock and Roll! Good Times! Going back further, Sinatra and the Rat Pack regularly smoked.  It was part of society (and particularly high society,) and to smoke was not just permitted, it was an expected behavior.

Today, it's much different.  You can thank science, or mortality tables, or political opportunism, or a more vocal populace to debate on both sides of the issue.  But, seemingly, a smoker risks a scarlet letter in the court of public opinion.

There is a lady at my office building who is a chain smoker.  I know this because when I enter and when I leave, there she is, smoking by the exit.  There is other evidence.  She has an unnatural slimness, pronounced wrinkles about her lips, a look of desperate incompleteness when she's not holding a cigarette, and a lingering aroma when she passes in the lobby or steps off the elevator at an earlier floor.  I don't understand her choice to smoke, but I respect it.

I don't hate smokers.  I became acquainted with cigarette smoke as a 4-5 year old hanging out in the billiards room at the college where my Dad taught.  Hey, it beats nursery school, and I learned some useful language.  I smoked some (undisclosed) amount in the summer between 3rd and 4th grade (Parents, watch your kids), and I count many smokers among my friends today.  And I'm not "for" the oppression of smokers' rights, either by governmental fiat or societal do-gooders trying to protect others from themselves.

That said, I have a low tolerance for cigarette smoke and prefer to avoid it, whether in a restaurant, at a concert, or at the entrance to my workplace.  There is a great divide between those who thrive amongst smoke and those who find it (they'll be happy to tell you...) something closer to toxic.  The City of Montgomery, AL had a City Council meeting on the subject before voting to ban cigarettes in any restaurant.  Certainly favoring one side of the issue, it was nicely framed as follows:

"I think a smoking section in a restaurant is much like a peeing section in a swimming pool." 

My issues with the lady who smokes at my office entrance has less to do with a bias against smokers, a little to do with an unwelcome smoky ambience to the beginning of my workday, and much more to do with a sense of disbelief that she is such an exemplary performer that she can meet her job expectations in half a day, or less.

So why am I bothering to write at all about this?  Well, the quote above is a favorite - it seems a waste not to share it.  But, not that smokers need more societal angst heaped upon their heavy laden backs, another pet peeve has flowered with the coming Spring.

You remember Spring?  In the South, it's that special month or so when the temperature invites rolling the car windows down, enjoying the fresh air.  We need this brief period to quickly enjoy the outdoors before the oppression of Southern heat sets in.  And no, I'm not going to complain about the smoker in the car in front of me enjoying the same sense of, um, freshness.  (It's obviously okay to poke fun at the irony).

Recently, I was waiting for a left hand turn arrow on a divided highway, and happened to look at the median.


There are leaves mixed in, but there's as many cigarette butts as weeds within the frame of this picture, literally hundreds. I paid attention only because the smoker in front of me stylishly flicked the stump of his cigarette onto the road.  And I have to ask myself...


Even in Georgia, we have rules against littering.  To see someone litter is a rare thing.  Know the difference between a redneck and a good ol' boy?  A redneck throws his empty beer can out the window; a good ol' boy throws it into the back of his pickup.  Indeed, my observations tend to point towards paper trash floating out from the beds of moving pickup trucks than anyone intentionally littering. 

But throwing cigarette butts out are very much intentional.  It surprises me that for an environmental activism issue that largely "won" people's minds and expectations years ago, no one seems to object to this particular form of litter.

It's also telling that auto manufacturers recognize that ashtrays are not needed in vehicles; their respective space in the dash have been replaced by holders for cell phones, sunglasses and coins. 

If an attorney is out there willing to accept the world's applause for making environmental headway, while also receptive to scorn for whatever monetary reward can be gained at taxpayer expense, then it seems logical that a legal action against the Big Three might result in a better mousetrap for things needing proper disposal.  Unless, of course, they backdate studies showing that smoking while driving is as dangerous as talking on the phone.  There's just no pleasing everyone.  Or, contrarily, it's easy to please anyone who funds a study.

Bonus Material!

There's a lot of people who, a cigarette is about the only vacation they have.  ~Trey Parker, mini-commentary on DVD South Park episode "Butt Out"

The public health authorities never mention the main reason many Americans have for smoking heavily, which is that smoking is a fairly sure, fairly honorable form of suicide.  ~Kurt Vonnegut

I used to smoke two packs a day and I just hate being a nonsmoker.... but I will never consider myself a nonsmoker because I always find smokers the most interesting people at the table.  ~Michelle Pfeiffer

Smoking is one of the leading causes of statistics.  ~Author Unknown


  1. I have a funny little story for you. While I was working for (then) Cingular Wireless as a customer service rep, I carpooled to work with 2 other people; a husband and wife actually. The work week was Monday through Saturday with Sunday and another day off. This worked great for us, as we each took 2 days to drive during the week. This saved us gas and gave us someone to chat with on the hour and half drive to and from work. Since we were all smokers, it worked out especially well for all of us.

    One night, as we were heading home, we got pulled over by a police officer. I was driving and was petrified that I was going to get a ticket, but for what I had no idea. As soon as the lights had come on, I had checked my speed and found I was actually a little under the posted limit. As it was dark, and the officer's headlights pretty well blinded us, I was very startled for the officer to knock on my passenger window. (That night it was just me and Carol, as her husband had the night off.) When I asked the officer what was wrong, she told me that she needed to see Carol's license. We were both shocked; she wasn't driving, I was.

    It turns out that if you throw a cigarette butt out of a car window, it is considered littering. Luckily, the officer let her and I both off with a warning. Yep, one for me too. As the driver, I could also get a ticket for something like accessory to litter. LOL. Not really, but I could get a moving violation if someone litters while I am driving. This information completely shocked us both.

    From that day forward, I was very careful about letting anyone throw a cigarette out the window of my car. I made sure they were aware of my car's ashtray and its function.

  2. I personally think it is disgusting that people throw cigarettes out of a moving vehicle. BOTH of my children will point to a littered butt and say "EWWWWWWW Someone is closer to dying." I know your rant is about the litter and not truly the smoking so I will keep the comments to that though I have MANY more about the smoking aspect.

    Smoking materials are the leading cause of fire deaths in the United States. I only hear Smokey the Bear at this moment saying "Only YOU can prevent forest fires". It is amazing to me how inconsiderate, selfish and ignorant people can be.