Our View: Tossing butts can be costly

One of the more popular and widely-shared news stories this week comes from Canada.

After a 21-year-old driver flicked a cigarette butt out his Ford Mustang in Victoria, British Columbia, he was dealt a hefty fine.

Victoria Chief Constable Del Manak wrote the man a $575 ticket for the act of “drop, release or mishandle of a burning substance,” which equals about $433 U.S.

But did you know the simple act of tossing a cigarette out of your car in the U.S. can also come with a hefty fine?

According to Kentucky law, tossing cigarette butts on the ground — including from your vehicle — is considered criminal littering and is punishable by a fine of up to $500 and/or up to a year in jail. 

It is not uncommon to see cigarette butts tossed carelessly from moving vehicles, by pedestrians walking in busy areas and even crushed on the ground within an arm’s reach of proper receptacles.

Clark County is not immune to the problem. Groups that do litter pick-ups report cigarette butts are the most common type of litter found in the community.

That is the case around the country as well.

According to Keep America Beautiful, a litter prevention group, cigarette butts remain the most littered item in the U.S. and across the globe. The overall littering rate for cigarette butts is 65 percent, and tobacco products comprise 38 percent of all U.S. roadway litter.

Keeping America Beautiful reports 77 percent of people surveyed said they did not consider cigarette butts as litter.

While cigarettes are small, they add up and have a big effect.

According to KAB, when smokers litter their cigarette butts:

— Community quality of life suffers and can result in a decline in a city’s foot traffic, tourism, business development and the value of housing. The presence of litter in a community decreases property values by a little more than 7 percent. 

— The appeal of public spaces, such as beaches and waterfronts, ball fields and parks, and picnic areas and hiking trails decreases.

— Fire hazards impact local wildlife and eventually contribute to lost economic development opportunities.

One key way to reduce cigarette litter is to increase accessibility to ash receptacles, but the biggest responsibility falls on smokers themselves.

If you see someone littering — including tossing cigarettes from vehicles — that can be reported to police.

Smokers should make every effort to make sure their litter ends up in the right place. The community will be a better, cleaner place.