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She has Bette Davis Lungs

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
April 30, 1998


As part of my Earth Day Celebrations I volunteer to help produce the largest Earth Fair in the United States. San Diego EarthWorks produces this yearly event, in which I am proud to participate. As Media Coordinator I have the "glamorous" task of working with the broadcast and print media, in particular the local television stations. This, my friends, is the easy part, usually completed shortly after noon. Although journalism can be a messy business, considering all the muck that is being shoveled and packaged as information, it pales in comparison next to cleaning up after 77,000 fair weather environmentalists.

Although fair-goers are very good at finding trash cans, there are two things that drive me near postal. First is: why can't people seem to understand the difference between trash cans and recycling bins? Could it be because most of them are illiterate and cannot read the big lettering on the side of the receptacles? Probably not. If you think about it, the words "recycle" and "trash" are very similar. But this is minor compared to the horror of picking up thousands of cigarette butts.

Could someone please tell me why cigarette butts are not considered to be trash? Why does the concept of littering not include the nasty end of a cancerstick? Now if I were to throw a Coke bottle to the ground, step on it and keep walking, or if I threw an empty Pepsi can from my car window most of you would have a problem with that. Yet the off-handed discarding of a finished cigarette does not elicit a response, let alone a cry of protest. Maybe if they weren't so small people would notice. But like straws on the beach, they quickly add up.

So there I was at Balboa Park at the end of a marathon cleanup session when this teenage girl, trying desparately to appear tough and jaded flicked her cigarette to the ground in front of me. Well of course I went off. I said "Excuse me, I can't believe you just threw that down, that is littering!" She said "I didn't litter" and kept on walking. OK, so now I am really pissed and I yell "If you are going to smoke you should take responsibility for your actions." No response. The other young monsters stared at me as if I was a freak. Did I pick up the cigarette butt? Hell yes. My only consolation was the image of this young woman coughing up a lung twenty years from now. Harsh? You bet.

My home is a non-smoking one. As cigarettes are not allowed in the house, our smoking guests congregate on the patio. Do you think these smokers would take the responsibility of emptying the ashtrays they use, that is if they even deem one necessary, of course not. They play stack the butts, it's as if they consider the growing pile of filters a testament to some unknown grown-up god. And if this foul alter continued to grow their deity would grant them longevity in this insane game of Russian Roulette. If the ugliness of someone sucking on a cigarette is isn't enough to turn your stomach, try removing thousands of cigarette butts from a public space.

Speaking of ugliness, who remembers what Bette Davis looked like at the end of her life? Although a brilliant actress she was a stupid as a stump and just as stubborn. Never seen without her trademark cigarette, she succumbed to cancer. Sorry folks everything about cigarettes is ugly. Nothing breaks my heart more than to see a thirteen year old girl nursing a Marlboro Light. We, as a culture, must stop turning our backs on the poisoning of children. If at 18 they say "Hey! I want to give my self emphysema, yellow skin and bad breath" then that should be their right. Although if we stopped the glorification of the nasty things, stopped the pro-cigarette propaganda, I'm sure these children would see cigarettes for what they are, a prolonged and expensive death.

It's ironic that all these Generation X'ers at the Earth Fair consider themselves alternative free thinker. When they are in reality, sucking up to an industry that has helped keep Jesse Helms, in office. It also seems odd that they do not see the irony of calling for an end to air pollution with one breath, and drawing in smoke from a cigarette with the next.

So yes ladies and gentlemen, you heard it here. Smoking is completely nonenvironmental. Not only does it pollute your lungs, the growing of tobacco is a government subsidized monoculture which leaves no room for native species. The boxes in which they are packaged comes from logged trees, and shipping the nasty cancer sticks around the world uses fossil fuels that only further pollute our lungs. From here on in when you see someone throwing a cigarette to the ground, approach the toxic polluter and say "Enough, Cancer Girl! This planet isn't big enough for the two of us."

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