Tuesday, June 01, 2004

A solution to cigarette butts' environmental toxicity

Like PM John Howard, I am an ex-smoker (of cigarettes, anyway). I'm not sure what the last straw was for his giving up the fags in Easter 1979. Oddly enough, my giving up the fags (in 1987) was more or less coincidental with my taking up with the fags (a case of finding something better to put in my mouth?). Perhaps what finally did it for little Johnnie's willpower was the pulse-quickening sight of the helmet-haired Margaret Thatcher, who in Easter 1979 would have been racing towards the first (in May) of the three great fundamentalist victories of that year.

Following this Ken Parish post, I had meant to blog on my ingenious alternative solution to banning smoking on beaches outright - having a compulsory "butt exchange" (snicker here if you must), inspired by junkies' (voluntary) needle exchanges. As often tends to happen with great ideas, I have been beaten to the punch, however, in rights of "first public use" by this letter to the ed (scroll to end) from Sam Bateman of Camberwell.

The only potential downside to the butt exchange, as far as I can see, is that it won't cover "rollies". As rollie smokers are currently only a small percentage of cigarette smokers, I can't see why this aspect alone should be a deal-breaker.

Sam's vision of desperate smokers scouring the streets and beaches for butts would only partially come to pass, I predict. In practice, there would be a thriving secondary market, probably comprised mainly of kids seeking some spare change. A discarded butt would thus come to have an unofficial, rough cash value - and (relatively) easy money could be made by those willing to to the dirty work of picking up discarded butts, for resale to tobacco addicts.

So why not go with it? Everyone's a winner here; most especially our long-suffering waterways.

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