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Diatribe: Cigarette Flickers + Drought = Forest Fires?

06/26/2012

Like most children, I was always fascinated with fire.  Campfires were the best fires because there was usually food nearby.  Once, in a particularly brilliant moment of childhood stupidity, I chose to march around a campfire with a blazing marshmallow at the end of a stick, hoisted high above me like a drum major, when the flaming ball of sugar proceeded to fall from the stick, roll down my shoulder and burn my tender little arm.  It was an awful experience.  If a campfire can cause so much pain, it’s difficult for me to imagine how much distress a forest fire can produce.

I cannot understand the mentality of a motorist who insists on flicking a burning cigarette out of his or her car window during extremely dry weather.  In the last few days I’ve counted six different people who have thrown a lit cigarette onto the road, during drought conditions, apparently without realizing exactly what they were doing.  When I see the ashes bounce and blow to the side of the road (much more dramatic after dark), into the dry grass along the median, I can’t help but wonder if I’ll be hearing about a fire on the local news.

There are burnt patches of grass along the sides of many interstates and I’ll wager they’re not caused by campfires.  Of course, smokers should be allowed to crystallize their lungs as much as they desire, slowly killing themselves with each successive puff.  That’s a choice that they make again and again.  Since my days as a smoker, I realize that it’s become increasingly difficult for those who use cigarettes to do so without being herded away from the general population as if they have a contagious disease.  One of the few places that they have left to enjoy their filthy habit is in their cars.  And still, some of them insist on throwing burning butts on the highway … presumably to keep their car’s ashtray (if it even has one) from filling up and smelling.

Not since my encounter with a smoking buffoon at a gas pump have I witnessed so many possible fires.  I assume that these people are simply not thinking about what it is that they’re doing when they flick a burning cigarette into a pile of dry grass along the side of the road.  Perhaps they’re distracted or perhaps they just don’t care.  Perhaps too many people don’t equate the red ember at the end of their cigarette with the flames of a fire.  Mostly, I figure, they assume that they won’t get caught.

During times of drought, the forests are basically giant piles of kindling.  Smokers should be reminded that one of their embers, flicked carelessly from their window as they drive along, could start a fire with results much more devastating than a flaming marshmallow rolling down a little one’s arm.

Learn what is burning at any given time by visiting InciWeb.

Copyright © 2012 www.DiatribesAndOvations.com
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8 Comments
  1. As an avid NON-smoker, this is something that drives me crazy, too. Then again, I hate being in the car behind a smoking driver, because they always have the window down and the cigarette outside their own car. That way I get to smell it too. Roll up your damn window and keep it with you. I don’t want to smell it; I am smart enough to not smoke.

    Ugh. It is the most disgusting habit.

    (Sorry for ranting.)

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    • No apology is necessary! I believe all smokers realize that what they’re doing is filthy and harmful not just to their health but to those around them. They create tons of litter (It is said to take an exceptionally long time for cigarette butts to disintegrate) and cause many fires (smoking in bed) besides wildfires. Clearly, it is more accurate to refer to their smoking as an “addiction” and not a “habit”.

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  2. justajeepguy permalink

    In addition to polluting the air and their lungs, smokers all seem to think it’s okay to pollute the ground. I wouldn’t throw a gum wrapper on the ground or out the car window but they’ll throw their used butt anywhere they damn please – except an ashtray.

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    • One afternoon last week, I was walking on a crowded sidewalk behind an older man who was smoking. When he flicked his lit cigarette into the gutter beside us I shouted “Pick that up right now!” loud enough to make several people turn their heads. He muttered a profanity but I clearly won the support of the others walking with him.

      Stick your head out the window of your car the next time you stop at a red light and you’ll be amazed at the filth these people cause. Then remember that each of the butts you see was, more than likely, on FIRE when the smoker carelessly tossed it out. Why do they think this is acceptable?

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  3. Smoking is the worst. I wish cigarettes cost $20 a pack.

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  4. As a reformed smoker (7 months now) I can sympathize with you. I WAS a flicker & you’re right it was because I didn’t want to fill up my ashtray. However, having lived in the bush for 7 years, I NEVER flicked in dry conditions, I always butted out in my ashtray. I laugh now when I see a car with its windows down & smoke pouring from a car & think how I must have looked when I smoked. I also realize it’s a very difficult thing to quit, so I admire those who chose not to smoke in the first place & those who have made the tough choice to quit.

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    • I agree! Giving up cigarettes is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Many don’t understand that smoking is both a habit and a chemical addiction and quitting means breaking both.

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