Not for Smokers Only

by Debi Taplin

I'm developing a new sign that I can have handy in the car when I travel. I'll flash it against my window at passing motorist when the moment presents itself.

Last summer we drove Interstate-5 that runs from Mexico to Canada, through California, Oregon and Washington. I was shocked to see numerous drivers throw lit cigarette butts out their vehicles. Not one or two smokers, but in the span of a few hours, twenty-five to thirty. Though most offenders were drivers, occasionally even passengers flicked their butts.

Now, mind you, the temperature was in the 90's and there was dry vegetation along the meridians: fields of grass and hay, trees and other plant life. Not to mention animal and human life. In case you aren't aware of it, many of these plant life forms are commonly called FUEL, by people who fight fires.

I've heard tales from many who travel and it appears this is a nation-wide problem. It doesn't seem to matter what the vegetation or weather is like.

As a recovered smoker, I can sympathize with those of you who still smoke. Yes, it does seem America is aimed at putting your fire out. Banned from public buildings, public transportation and many restaurants, where else do you have to satisfy that nicotine attack? But in your vehicle.

When you're in your vehicle, it transforms into your own private space and transitory island of peace and tranquillity. No one can stop you from lighting up here: not the public, not your spouse, and certainly not your boss.

So, I know you don't want to hear it, but it's about time somebody said something. Frankly, enough is enough.

When you're cruising down the freeway, be-bopping to the radio, sucking in that final drag, DON'T open the window and flick that butt in my direction.

Mostly I have tried to identify the problem and those who suffer from this irritating habit. But I wish to make an appeal to non-smokers and smokers who don't suffer from this butt flicking habit.

I challenge fellow motorists to keep a notebook and pen handy. When you see someone flick their butt, note down the location, license number, description of the vehicle, and any other details of interest. Then be sure to report.

"Where?" You ask.

You could start with the police. In Oregon, the very least this action can bring is a class C misdemeanor that carries a hefty fine of one thousand dollars. And, that is if no other damage is done.

Let your imagination run wild. Can you see a field catching fire behind you and what you could be charged with, AND, have to pay for. How much more tragic when it involves homes or human life.

"No way!" You say. "I don't want to get involved. You want me to call the police. Do you think I'm nuts?"

No, chances are you're not nuts. But if people like you, people who don't suffer from this habit of butt flicking, don't want to get involved, then who?

Well, let's look at an alternative. We could start a new internet site. We could call it: The Smoking Butthead Site - Squash all Butt-Flickers here. This site would allow you to add the offending person's state, where the incident happened, their license number, description of the vehicle and any other juicy details of interest.

At least then the Fire Departments, Forestry personnel, and other emergency services around the nation would have the information without your becoming more involved. And, repeat offenders would quickly surface.

To these Butt-Flickers, I ask: Is having a clean ashtray REALLY worth the potential cost to your savings account, your family or your freedom? I thought only inhaling marijuana or other stronger substances caused brain damage. What's your excuse?

Never mind, we don't want to hear. Since any excuse will do. They all work, at least to soothe your wounded ego.

Instead, let's take an imaginary trip. Close your eyes and see yourself cocooned in your vehicle. Allow that wonderful peace and tranquillity to settle over you as the nicotine soothes your nerves. Look through the smoke, out the windows, into the great beyond. Then, tap back into the passionate rebellion you feel from this article. Enjoy that last comforting inhale, that final drag, then drop your window and flick that butt.

Except, this time, picture your home in the rear view mirror. Your children and spouse absorbed in a computer game. Lucky, the lab, is stretched out in the sun beaming down from the window. And there, just a short distance away, red and orange flames lick their way through a field of yellowed hay in their direction, as you speed away.

"So long, Lucky."

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