Sunday, July 6, 2008

Don't Look Down

I was driving to work the other day, and while I was in traffic I saw some jaggoff flick a cigarette out of his car window. That may not seem too unusual, but that's exactly my issue. So I got to thinking, "Why don't they ever get in trouble for littering?" Why is it socially acceptable to chuck these pieces of garbage wherever the Hell they want? It's because a cigarette butt is so small, right? That's the same type of logic that people use in discussions about animals. Save the ones that are cute, furry, and moderately-sized, but nobody gives a rat's ass about squashing bugs, mice and the like. Well, maybe it's not the same logic, but it agitates me anyway. Sorry, where was I? I thought I'd apply a little simple math to the butt-generators to see what falls out. I don't smoke, so I had to scrounge up a cigarette butt off of the street. Then I took the gross-ass thing to work, weighed and measured it, and this is what I came up with after a little number crunching.
I grabbed some background information from a National Heath Interview Survey cited by the American Lung Association. The article estimates the number of smokers in the US to be about 20% of the population, so I estimated low at 55 million smokers. It further states that around 75% of those smokers smoke at least a pack-a-day. Again, I estimated low saying 70% smoked that much, giving me 38 million smokers. For the non-smokers in the audience, there are 20 cigarettes in a pack. Each cigarette butt has an average mass of .192 grams and a volume of 1.042 cubic centimeters.

The number of butts per day generated by pack-a-day smokers is 770 million. This is 396,211 pounds, or 200 tons - around 28,323 cubic feet of cigarette butts per day. Now, let's assume that 1 out of every 2 butts end up on the ground (50%). This number is undoubtedly going up since smoking is getting black-listed from most public places: less ashtrays + lazy slobs = more garbage that I have to look at (among other things). The mass of butts that end up as litter every day is 100 tons. The volume of this crap is 525 cubic yards, or enough butts to fill up a 30x30 three-story building every day. That's 57,750,000 linear feet, or 11,000 miles of butts per day. In 2 1/2 days they would reach around the world. In 20 days they would reach the moon. Keep in mind that these numbers are from the US only, and my estimates are low, as well. Also, I just counted the pack-a-day bums. I didn't count the chain-smoking grandmas with corn teeth or the posers that only smoke when they drink.

Don't look down. They're all over the place. Add this to your list of things that you never noticed before that will annoy the shit out of you (like real estate signs or the “cigarette burns” that signify a reel change at a movie). Next time you see someone drop a cigarette give them a ration of crap for me, or just hope that the gods of heart disease and lung cancer catch up with them like I do. OK, that's a little mean...maybe just call on the gods of moderately persistent cough and yuck-mouth...

1 comment:

mattc said...

I completely agree, I've been saying this for years. Why are cigarette butts considered acceptable forms of litter? Because smokers are lazy!