Butt ugly
Posted on Monday, Jul 21, 2014
With a new city cigarette tax likely, many officials hope that fewer people will kick the habit. And since Philadelphia is one of the “smoking-est” big cities in the country, fewer smokers will have a big impact on the dirty mess this city is known for.

People who would be horrified to toss a can or chip bag out the window think nothing of tossing their butts on the streets and sidewalks. In fact, according to Streets Department Commissioner David Perri, cigarette butts are the #1 littered item in the country -- comprising 38 percent of all roadway litter. He estimates that Philadelphians throw down about a billion butts a year.

That not only costs us all to clean up, but Joanne Dahme of the city’s Water Department notes that discarded butts clog storm drains. Some eventually escape traps, ending up in our rivers and streams. Researchers say the chemicals in discarded butts can kill marine life. Perri wishes people would throw their butts into a proper trash receptacle.

When cartoonist Signe Wilkinson sketched some of our butt-ugly litterati in action around the city last week – as part of an occasional series on litter -- she noted that none of the flame-throwers were in the vicinity of a single ashtray or receptacle. Yes, we need fewer people tossing butts, but maybe we also need a few more ashtrays – especially since, as Center City honcho Paul Levy points out, smokers in recent years have been driven outside as buildings go smoke-free.

Other ideas? Send them to wilkins@phillynews.com.