Friday, April 17, 2009

Making Criminals Out of Butt-Droppers

This truly was a momentous week in history: On Wednesday, The Wandering Eye attended a right-wing political rally, and today we find ourselves agreeing with

Posted By on Fri, Apr 17, 2009 at 10:09 AM

This truly was a momentous week in history: On Wednesday, The Wandering Eye attended a right-wing political rally, and today we find ourselves agreeing with Lars Larson.


On the Oregon Catalyst blog, Lars took out after a bill being pushed by state Rep. Carolyn Tomei (D-Milwaukie) that would make it a criminal act in Oregon to drop a cigarette or cigar butt on the ground.

"It's already illegal to throw a burning cigarette out of a car window," Larson notes. "It's illegal to litter. But ... Tomei ... wants to make it a misdemeanor crime to throw away a cigarette or cigar butt, punishable by six months in jail."

The Oregonian reports that the legislation was inspired by Deb Schallert, a former Oregon state parks worker who for the past several years has been conducting a personal crusade against butts.

"The Ocean Conservancy, which coordinates cleanups worldwide, says [butts are] the No. 1 littered item on the globe," The O writes. "Cleanup volunteers picked up 3.2 million in 2008 from beaches and inland waterways."

The story goes on to explain that the filters on cigarettes are not biodegradable, that animals and birds like to eat the butts, and that "they contain hazardous ingredients that could harm aquatic organisms."

Larson is wrong about Schallert and Tomei wanting to send butt-droppers to jail; Tomei's bill would make dropping a cigarette or cigar butt a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 or (more likely) community service. There's no mention of prison time.

Just the same, we think Larson's general point is valid: Criminalizing "the unlawful disposition of a tobacco product" (as Tomei's bill calls it) is total overkill, especially since littering already is illegal. We are second to none in our contempt for people who think the world is their ashtray, but this legislation smacks more of political correctness than of an attempt to solve a serious public problem.

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