Chris Zappala

Chris Zappala

Smoking, as the Marlboro man would tell you, is all about freedom — which means it’s all about an image of freedom. For the Marlboro man, that freedom is found in a wide-open prairie, usually just before sunset. For the fun-loving Newport gang, it’s bright noon on the deck of a sloop. For those intense Camel people, it’s a night out on the town.

But those images of freedom usually don’t include disposing of cigarette butts.

Having been thrown out of offices, restaurants and many homes, smokers stand outside where there are frequently no ashtrays or garbage bins. And tossing a cigarette butt into the trash might start a fire.

So they finish their cigarettes and punctuate the end of their break with the ritual discard, tossing the butt to the ground. Sometimes they throw the butts out car windows as they speed along.

In this way, smoking turns ordinary people — who would never think of crumpling a piece of paper and leaving it on the street, or abandoning a takeout container on the grass of a picnic site — into litterers.

That’s what they are, though. Their smashed cigarette butts remain until someone else picks them up. Sometimes it’s on concrete, sometimes on grass. The butts float along behind the Newport people’s bright white sloop. You could follow the Marlboro man by the trail of butts he leaves on that wide-open prairie. The Camel people, at least, might have those steep plastic pyramids of ash outside their nightclub, but you sure don’t see them in the ads.

For the other smokers, those who live in the real world, a little extra care should be taken, a little more thought given. Ask for an outdoor ashtray. And use it.

Before the freedom to smoke outdoors is legislated away as well.