What is, far and away, the most littered item on the SouthCoast? For that matter, what's the most littered item in America and around the world?

I'll give you a hint: you've seen them sailing through the air from car windows, and gussying up our beaches, and sidewalks.

Yes, it's the cigarette butt. And given, as a result of habitual use, cigarette butts are casually discarded; to a smoker, flicking a cigarette is as involuntary as blinking your eyes, which makes this kind of littering a social norm.

The filter is comprised of plastic, made from cellulose acetate, that takes a very, very long time to biodegrade and break down–but it never disappears. Environmentally, they end up in the ocean, killing fish that can't digest them and birds that have the same problem. And don't get me started on forest fires caused by a discarded cigarette.

But since littering with cigarette butts is part of our culture, the best we can hope for is to persuade the smokers you know to put on a pair of gloves and help in neighborhood clean-ups. The least we can do is make the public aware of the problem of cigarette butt waste.

There is some discussion about even charging a deposit per cigarette, which can be reclaimed by turning in used butts.

Does your place of work have a designated waste bin for butts? If not, don't complain about the amount of discarded cigarettes on the ground around your employment.

And finally, cheers for adults who vape. You folks who've switched over from tobacco cigarettes to e-cigs. At least you're not littering the SouthCoast anymore, and I'm not just blowing smoke when I say it.

Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at phil@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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