It Will Now Be Illegal To Toss A Cigarette Butt In Chicago

The state of Illinois is now taking a stand against the most casual and acceptable form of litter.

There are fewer and fewer places these days where it’s okay to smoke, thanks to a growing number of public health laws.

However, policymakers have paid far less attention to another societal consequence of lighting up: the scourge of litter from cigarette butts.

According to Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, an advocacy group, butts are the most commonly discarded waste around the world—a whopping 1.7 billion pounds are trashed each year, filled with toxic compounds.

The state of Illinois is now doing something about it, having passed a law that makes it illegal to toss a butt on the ground or out the car window. Beginning next year, violators will face up to a $1,500 fine for littering their butts, reports the Rockford Register Star. If they’re caught, of course.

See a list of the 10 items that litter our beaches. Guess what's #1?

In Illinois, the Great Lakes can sometimes become the de facto "ash tray" for smokers. The Alliance for Great Lakes says that 29% of the scraps picked up by its volunteers in 2012 were smokers’ scraps. Litter in a neighborhood can also devalue properties and contribute to crime—a la the "broken windows" theory of urban renewal.

But cigarette butt trash is obviously a problem all over the U.S. and the world. People in other cities are trying alternate approaches, such as encouraging people to recycle them. Perhaps Illinois can set an example of how to enforce an end to the annoying and hazardous affliction, though surely some smokers will take issue with another hassle they will have to deal with.

[Image: Cigarettes via Shutterstock]

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  • IrvinDawid

    As indicated below, it would seem that some type of outdoor ashtray or "butt disposal" container is necessary if smokers are to not use the ground as one in specific locations. Did you look into this possibility and how it would relate to possible legislation?  I was aghast at the amount of butts outside my neighborhood Starbucks this morning - it's obvious where they came from as they were all on the sidewalk outside the store.

  • Shawn

    It doesn't affect me since I own a pocket ashtray (which most people don't know exist.) But if the city is going to be enforcing hefty fines for cigarette butts they better be installing many, many butt disposal units across the city. Which they won't because they just want the money.

  • William LaCourse

    Does this apply to non-filter cigarettes?   They are biodegradable.     Maybe the fine should olny bee $1000 for non-filter cigarettes.     And what if the filter IS biodegradable.  Would the law still apply.  And what if it were a CIGAR.   Is there a law for cigars.   They are much heavier than cigarettes and the fine should probably be $5,000 + one year in prison.    And what about smoking pipes.  If a person empties his/her pipe on the ground, is there a law for that.     And what about hemp ashes/butts, is it ok to throw those away?    And what about caps from plastic water bottles.   My dog choked on one of those that was thrown away.   I want life in prison for people throwing those plastic caps on the ground.    And what about politicians..... just being one is toxic and the stuff they throw around costs us Billions.   Please tell me where I can get this info, as I use all these products and plan to visit Chicago next year.