City of Deer Park, Ohio
"The Right Town for a  Bright Future"

Butts, Butts Everywhere & Not An Ashtray In Site

By Holly Utrata-Halcomb,
District Administrator

Now that the prohibition on cigarette smoking is in full swing, interpretations abound.  Whether you are rejoicing over the ban or shocked and ready to revolt, I believe we can all agree on one thing – bring back some of the ash trays !! 

I have noticed a proliferation of cigarette butts wherever I go. The law requires that they be placed at least 25 feet from an entrance; however, in my office park and most businesses I frequent, they have removed all of the ash trays, period. This has resulted in piles of butts outside cars and a collection of butts where the ashtrays used to be. Seems the smokers either haven’t noticed that the containers have been removed and they are a creature of habit, or this is their passive aggressive protest to the ban on smoking. 

Where will all these butts go? They will most likely end up in our waterways. It takes a minimum of 10 years for a cigarette filter to decompose. This does not bode well for our streams or their inhabitants. One research report states that 18 percent of all litter dropped to the ground is washed into streams, rivers, lakes and the ocean by storm water runoff.  The Ocean Conservancy's annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) addresses the most littered items by publishing a "Top 10 List."  Cigarette litter was at the top of the list after the 2003 cleanup, outstripping the next item on the list by three to one. 

Cigarette butts are little and lightweight —they are easily carried by runoff into our waterways. Birds may use it for nesting and even think it's food? One major concern I have is the potential for fire during the dry summer months. All mulch is flammable, however, pine needle mulch is becoming very popular as a mulch – we know how fast a dry Christmas tree burns.

Here are some suggestions Keep America Beautiful has for this growing problem.  

Are you a smoker? Please use ashtrays, pocket ashtrays and ash receptacles when you are outside.  Before you begin to smoke outside, look for the receptacle you'll use when you finish smoking.  Do NOT throw butts in storm drains. While you may think it keeps them from causing a fire, there is a problem if cigarette litter enters our waterways! If you use your car's ashtray for coins and keys or if your car doesn’t have an ashtray, please use a portable ashtray that fits in your car’s cup holder and do NOT throw butts out car windows. This creates litter on the streets; recent wildfires in our country have been directly attributed to littered cigarette butts. Keep Cincinnati Beautiful will provide you with a free pocket ash tray. Give them a call at 513-352-4380 or go to their web site at to request one today. 

Do you own or manage a business with a “no smoking” policy? Please provide employees and visitors with ash receptacles at all entry points to your business. These “Transition Points” are the places smokers need to discard their cigarettes before entering your business. Once installed, these ash receptacles need to be monitored and maintained regularly. 

Are you a city manager/mayor, director of public works or a building manager for a city-owned or county-managed facility? Please consider increasing the number of ash receptacles around the community. Look at the transition points for residents who smoke like bus stops, parking lots, and business or municipal buildings.

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