Column – Smokers: Don’t be butt heads

Published 6:05 pm Tuesday, January 24, 2023

We pick up trash at Lone Star Lakes Park just about every Monday.

The staff at the park does a really great job of keeping it clean and it is one of the cleanest parks we know. The 1,172 acres is a lot of park to keep clean so they can always use a little extra help.

Biff gets the big stuff and I go for the small bits. My pet peeve is cigarette butts. You’d be surprised how many are tossed in just one small gravel parking spot overlooking beautiful lakes for fishing and kayaking like Lunker Landing, Bluegill Hill or Citation Station to name a few.


Email newsletter signup

Folks just don’t think cigarette filters are pollution. They’re just made out of paper and cotton…right?  Well, that is wrong and a big misconception.

Cigarette filters are the most common form of plastic pollution, about 4.5 trillion butts worldwide says one study.  That’s more than the dreaded plastic water bottles or soda straws. We sure do get plenty of those, too.

Cigarette butts can leach all kinds of nasty stuff into lakes and streams, such as lead, arsenic and nicotine, all of which pose a serious threat to the wild environment. These little poison bombs take about 10 years to completely degrade.

Not only are cigarette filters a threat to the wild environment, they are a serious danger to pets. We know this from first hand experience.

Recently we were walking the archery trail at LSL with our sweet little Jack Russell, Remy, who is just a year and a half old — that age where a pup will eat just about anything that smells good.  She is fast at everything she does — especially eating.

Unknown to us at the time, she sniffed out a spot where folks had been smoking and had pitched the butts on the ground. She had been picking them up and eating them like popcorn. By the time we got home she was disoriented, unable to stand without falling down and having tremors.

Cigarette filters contain roughly 4-8 mg of nicotine. Nicotine is a neurotoxin that affects the brain and central nervous system. It only takes 5 mg of nicotine per pound of weight in a dog to be toxic. Depending on the size of the dog, more could be lethal.

It turns out our sweet pup had ingested nine. She weighs 27 lbs., so we were very lucky to get her to the veterinarian right away.

After a day in the capable hands of our vet, which involved purgatives, IV fluids,  and 10 days of various meds to go along with a bill that started with a 6 and ended in a couple of zeros, our sweet dog was well on her way to a happy recovery.

So, you can see why cigarette butts are my “pet” peeve.

If you smoke, do what they do in the military and field strip them, which means you pull the tobacco off and put the butt in your handy “pocket ashtray” until you get to a trash can. If you are one of the friendly folks who helps keep Suffolk clean,  be sure to use grabbers or gloves when cleaning up trash, especially cigarette butts. They are too nasty to pick up with your bare hands, which makes them all the more devilish to deal with.

They say the devil is in the details…even the small bits of trash matter.

Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at