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Littering is not a crime in California.

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
Februrary 3, 2005


Stopped at a red light on Leucadia Blvd, Tuesday Jan 25, 2005, 8:15 am, a dude, early twenties, short dark hair, Caucasian, flicked a cigarette butt out the window of his Black Toyota Tacoma, license plate number 5R25500. On the phone with someone more important than the ecological health of his immediate environment, I'm sure he didn't think once about compounding a dirty smoking habit with littering.

Throwing a cigarette out the window out of an automobile, moving or stationary, is littering. Just as throwing McDonalds trash and beer bottles out of a Black Toyota Tacoma, license plate number 5R25500 is an affront to public decency, so too is treating southern California like an ashtray. Cigarette butts litter our roadways and beaches, it's ugly and it wrong. Not a day does go by that I don't see one or more smoker polluting southern California with habitual waste.

Usually I engage in Mad Max fantasies when I see smokers toss a lit cigarette. Including thoughts of drastic retaliation and fiery explosions. This time however I decided to acknowledge the driver of the black Toyota Tacoma, license plate number 5R25500. His contribution to the community of Encinitas of garbage and egocentric selfishness should not be ignored.

Driving to work 5R25500 became my mantra, "5R25500, 5R25500, 5R25500…" in repetition until reaching the office and a pen. My first instinct was to call the California Highway Patrol's 1-800-Tell-CHP hotline to report black Toyota Tacoma, license plate number 5R25500. Upon reaching a spokesperson for the CHP media affairs office, I learned that unless an officer of the law sees you throw a cigarette butt out your car window, those littering are free to do so without any fear of future responsibility for their actions.

When I told the officer I witnessed someone tossing a lit cigarette from his automobile, and would be willing to testify, Mr. CHP informed this inquiring journalist, like speeding or not wearing a seatbelt, throwing garbage from your car window is not a crime. Littering he insisted only warrants a fine "when witnessed by a peace officer not a disgruntled girlfriend with an axe to grind." His words not mine.

In other words, California motorists are free to dump their waste on public roadways when peace officers are not around.

As an environmentalist I would never encourage people to litter, or take the law into their own hands when they witness others littering. I do encourage putting 1-800-TELL-CHP on speed dial, and reporting every litterer. According to Mr. "Just don't let me see you do it" CHP, reports of littering would be forwarded to the DMV and those littering will get a form letter in the mail telling them not to do it. If the CHP and the DMV were confronted with a barrage of phone calls every time some idiot carelessly tossed a cigarette butt into the environment, they might start to see it as the problem it is.

Perhaps if litterers were constantly reported, state employees would be forced to work a little harder, which in turn would piss them off as much as litterers piss me off, and something would be done. Something must be done.

In the state of California, irresponsible smokers and other litter monkeys, can be fined as much as $1000 for every violation. Littering fines have been on the books for decades, but rarely enforced, as evidenced by Mr. CHP's attitude. Imagine the payoff associated with the enforcement of littering ordinances. If a $1,000 fine were collected for every discarded cigarette butt, California would not be in the financial straights it's in. Collecting $1000 for every discarded cigarette has the potential to fully fund public education, preschool through university, every anti-smoking organization in the state, and annual coastal clean-ups.

Unthinking, uncaring smokers could net the state of California millions, every year.

Now is the time for nonsmokers and responsible smokers to get tough on the inconsiderate pig people who continue to use the planet as an ashtray. Littering should be seen as the crime it is. Personally I don't care if people smoke, as I believe suicide to be a matter of choice. I do however resent people tossing garbage on to the ground as if it didn't matter. It matters.

I have programmed 1-800-Tell-CHP into my cell phone and plan to use it often. I also plan to become very vocal/obnoxious in regards to this issue.

Black Toyota Tacoma, license plate number 5R25500 consider your self warned.

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