Smokers need to clean up their act – or die faster

Sometimes it takes going to a different place to clear your head of all the bad things to which you’ve simply become habituated. Like waste, and inconsiderate, dirty cigarette smokers. A recent trip to Busan, South Korea, opened my eyes to what proper enforcement and government action can achieve.

Busan is a surprisingly clean city. Surprisingly because it’s not like a US city where there are rules about EVERYTHING from the height and spacing of stairs, to where you may and may not smoke. The air is clean despite the huge condensed population thanks to great public transport. And although Koreans smoke about as much as South Africans, smoking is not permitted everywhere: Not in public parks, not on beaches, not in restaurants (but in bars and Karaoke places it’s okay).

A beautiful beach. Reminded me of beaches in KwaZulu-Natal except for something important: It was perfectly clean. No glass. Clear water. Very safe – even though there were few bathers for some reason there were life guards all along it. I wonder if they stop people tossing cigarette buts? If only our fearless leader would have let us swim…

Do the drains run to the sea as they do in California? I hope not, because people do toss their cigarettes there. Not the way USA smokers do – as if it’s a gesture that represents freedom and democracy or something – but pretty regularly. Still the reminders not to smoke are more than just signs. They’re huge and unmistakeable.

I got it! But give me a few drinks and I might forget once a month.

As gaudy as the signs were, they seemed to work.

… and there’s a lot of beauty to protect.

At the entrance to the park, collections of garbage remind you not leave it lying around. Some garbage cans – trash bins – would be nice though. At the same location where vending machines sell drinks there are none. Sadly, this rocky outcrop, one of the most beautiful, is also the most littered with chip packets, cigarette butts and other debris of what we call “civilisation”.

Made me think back to a walk in a park in California with one of my favorite people in the world. We were having a great day, so I didn’t say anything. I also didn’t say anything because I’m so used to the things smokers do, all of which I hate so much that it’s a physical effort not to shout at random strangers. But he kept tossing his cigarettes. And I didn’t know how to deal with it. I still think about it.

Dear Smokers: I hate it when smokers…

1. Sit right next to me on a bench and smoke, when they could walk away.
I’ma former smoker. Smoking right on top of me is like me putting just a dash of vodka in an alcoholic’s coke. Not very cool at all.

2. Leave a dirty tray of cigarette butt my house
I was nice enough to let you smoke on my balcony. So put it in the trash, ffs. It smells, and I don’t want to clean it up.

3. Toss your cigarettes all over the place
It’s shameful to pollute a beautiful place, or even a random street or apartment block with your but ends. How much more effort does it take to step on it, then pick it up? Yes we know they’re disgusting and you want it to get away from you as soon as you’ve satisfied your craving. But that doesn’t mean we should all have to clean up after you. It doesn’t mean we want your buts in the ocean next time we swim. It’s like pooping, okay. Put your toilet paper in the toilet after you wipe. Or, or if you’re in Korea, in the little basket next to the toilet. God, at least poop is bio-degradable.

That’s my rant for today.

Just because smokers are destined to die of cancer doesn’t mean the should get to annoy us all while they’re still alive. I used to smoke. I may not have been perfect, but I never tossed my but ends out on the street. That’s the bottom line.

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