One day as I worked my way toward my psychology class in Gund Hall, I approached the regular smoking corner, sandwiched between the Peter B. Lewis building and the Cleveland Institute of Art. It’s a popular one.
As a student dragged the last puff from his cigarette and exhaled a breath of smoke into the cold air, he looked to his left. Then he dashed the small cigarette butt on the sidewalk, ground it into the slush with his boot, and ran into PBL.
A trashcan was approximately three-and-a-half feet from where the student previously stood.
Let’s be real; I have no idea who this student is, but he’s probably done it before, like a select handful of classmates here at Case Western Reserve University. He might be like the group of five who, as they meet near the trash can every few days, all decide that it’s not worth it to dispose of the cigarette butts, and instead scatter them in the same area.
Note: Not all smokers, not even most smokers, engage in littering their cigarette butts. This is a small group, and I commend the vast majority of students who take littering seriously.
Also I don’t smoke cigarettes, and I don’t really care if other people smoke; that’s a personal decision. In the fall of 2013, Andrew Breland wrote an opinion discussing the cons of smoking and included an argument against having a smoking campus. He included the fact that cigarette butts are a huge form of litter at CWRU. I don’t agree with Breland’s opinion of having a no-smoking campus. However I do agree that littering needs to stop.
I’ll relate this to an analogy: Sometimes in the mornings, I eat a banana for breakfast. If I was walking to class with a banana peel, and threw it on the ground (and to be more accurate, if I threw it three-and-a-half feet away from the garbage can), would it be littering?
“But it’s biodegradable!”
Nope. It’s still littering.
(Something worth pointing out: At least bananas are biodegradable; those little filters at the end of a cigarette are actually plastic, not natural fibers. If it weren’t for CWRU’s custodians and facilities teams, those cigarette butts would be around for much longer than we will be.)
Speaking of CWRU’s custodians and facilities teams, they’re already overworked enough. Now that it’s finally spring and the snow and ice have melted, those little fibrous ends are still there, waiting for someone to scoop them up, along with the new ones deposited daily.
Sure this isn’t going to show up on the Police Blotter. People aren’t going to get arrested for this, not on CWRU’s campus. But did you know that any litter, in the state of Ohio, is punishable with a fine of $500 and potential jail time?
Tell me I’m making a big deal of this, go ahead. If you’re going to say that though is it a big deal for this handful of students to take two steps and throw their cigarette butts into the trash can?
They might have to deal with butts, but they don’t have to be butts.
Anne Nickoloff is a junior studying English and Psychology, and hopes to be an arts and entertainment journalist someday. She loves the city of Cleveland and all its squirrels.