Time for a little rant, I think: the first of 2012. Those of you who follow my blog will know that I have a bee in my bonnet about some people’s inability to dispose of their refuse correctly. My indignation was roused yet again this week by a piece on the TF1 news. Do you know how many tonnes of cigarette stubs are collected on the streets of Paris every year?
Answer: 315 tonnes. It’s inconceivable. When you consider how light a mégot (cigarette stub) is, it must take an awful lot to constitute even one tonne. If you multiplied that by the pavement area of France you’d arrive at a whopping figure. Not only are they unpleasant to look at but they also contain toxic residue. Apparently, one mégot can pollute up to six litres of water.
La Ville de Paris has decided to crack down on this and is soon to issue spot fines of €35 to offenders, most of whom don’t yet realise that they will be fined for dropping their ciggy on the street.
The law that forbids people to smoke inside public places must be partly responsible. While I totally agree with the principle that I shouldn’t be obliged to inhale other people’s cigarette smoke, there are always unforeseen downsides to laws that are drawn up with the best of intentions.
It hasn’t stopped people smoking; they just go outside to do it instead. We’ve all seen knots of office workers huddled in doorways in sub-zero temperatures puffing away. And in the absence of ashtrays they simply grind the finished mégot underfoot or drop it in the gutter. To address this, Paris is fitting 15,000 special stubbing-out attachments to litter bins (it plans 30,000 by 2014).
It’s not just the stubs, either. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen someone emerge from le tabac-presse (newsagent) in the village, where they’ve just stocked up on cigarettes, open a packet and simply drop the cellophane and silver paper on the pavement. And there’s a litter bin attached to the wall just beside the door of the shop! To my shame, I have never been brave enough to rebuke the culprits.
That’s not all. You’ll know if you read me regularly that we are very fond of walking. We have the good fortune to live amidst beautiful, largely unspoilt countryside. Unspoilt that is except for the accumulated rubbish on the roadside grass verges. Much of this consists of cigarette stubs and cigarette packets and papers. Sometimes you come across a little heap of cigarette ends where someone has obviously stopped at the roadside to empty out their on-board ashtray. Not to mention the plastic bottles, drinks cans, used Loto tickets and other detritus that people fling from their car windows as they drive along.
And let’s not even think about the number of brush fires caused every year by people carelessly tossing a smouldering cigarette out of their car window.
But why should they bother? No one catches them doing it and someone else can clear it up, can’t they? I have my doubts that the fining system will solve the problem in Paris. It’s too difficult to police something that is so widespread.
By the way, I have nothing against other people smoking if they want to, although the implications for the cost of health services are obvious. I’d just rather they didn’t inflict the spin-offs from their habits on their fellow residents.
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