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Editorial: Get the Butts Off the Beaches

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced recently that he is proposing a new law to keep people from smoking on all New York City beaches. We are all for it. Not only is it annoying to be sitting on a beach while smoke from a nearby blanket wafts by your nose – but the butts are littering our beaches.

 

Some have an allergic reaction to cigarette smoke. But the issue does go further than personal health.

Consider the marine environment. Friends of the Bay Executive Director Patricia Aitken talked about the Oyster Bay/Cold Spring Harbor Cleanup in the Sept. 25, “How’s the Water?” column and said:

“Most marine debris is entirely preventable. Participants will be asked to record what is picked up. This data is compiled and a report is issued on what is picked up worldwide. The number one item? Cigarette butts! They not only make humans sick, they hurt the health of our oceans and bays.”

The photographs from this year’s clean up are in the newspaper today, Oct. 7. At the present time the debris tally isn’t done – that is coming soon. But the probability is that butts remain in the forefront of the debris.

Years ago when we were more regular beachgoers, we often used our toes to bury the stray cigarette butts that dotted the sand at Beekman Beach. They were unsightly, and think of the little kids who played in the sand. The moms also collected glass shards from broken beer bottles and put them into the garbage containers. Today, with the regular beach cleanups the beaches and the bay are much cleaner.

While smokers quote the First Amendment rights – I invoke the First Amendment rights of others – to breathe fresh air and not polluted air from second hand smoke. And maybe we can invoke that same First Amendment right for the waters around us – “Don’t pollute our environment, please.”