THE old pedestrian bridge in Weld Quay near the ferry terminal in Penang tells a sickening story of smokers’ uncaring attitude.
Between the planks of each step on the bridge are gaps that city cleaners cannot easily reach with a broom.
The gaps are just the right size for cigarette butts to get lodged inside, hundreds of them.
Due to this design quirk, smokers polluting the air with their bad habit while using the bridge then get to pollute the ground, too.
I took a photo of the hundreds of cigarette butts lodged in the crevices. I showed it to a smoker friend and was exasperated when he expressed no surprise.
“Ya. You pinch what is left of the cigarette between your thumb and middle finger after smoking and flick it away.
“It’s something nearly all smokers do,” he shrugged without much emotion.
What kind of culture is that? A cigarette butt can take 18 months to 10 years to decompose, depending on conditions.
They float on water and when washed away, they eventually find their way into the sewage system, rivers and the sea.
You may think your one little butt cannot do much harm, dear smoker.
But there are millions of you out there and if all of you habitually flick away what is left of your cancer stick, what do you think is going to happen?
Worse, when the butt is still lit, you create a fire hazard and allow harmful smoke to continuously pollute the air.
Cigarette smoke is 10 times more polluting than diesel engine exhaust, a controlled experiment reported by Tobacco Control states.
The smoke is not only harmful to the environment but also to those standing around.
An estimated five million Malaysians or 22.8% of the population are smokers, according to the National Health and Morbidity Survey.
If you really want to smoke, knock yourself out. You own your life and can do whatever you want with it.
But not at our expense, all right! Stay classy and don’t leave the gross and smelly evidence of your habit around.
I have a few friends who carry portable ashtrays wherever they go.
The Japanese are renowned for their consideration and invented portable ashtrays that are very cute and some can even fit on a key chain.
I have smoker friends who do not smoke when there are others around. It’s not easy for them to resist the temptation but they are being considerate.
Penangites succeeded in reducing the use of plastic bags and the culture of bringing reusable bags when shopping is setting in. Congratulations!
Now I hope to see the ban on smoking in public places more strictly enforced so that we can all be healthier in a cleaner and greener environment.
Dear smokers, a healthier life starts with the air we all share. And fresh air is not free because we must strive for it.
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