The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

An abundance of cigarette butts

City College’s designated smoking areas have rounded up smokers, but as the litter piles up on campus, the habitual flick of a cigarette is the butt of the problem.

Bright red smoking benches are noticeable from just about anywhere on campus, and so is the cigarette litter. There are ashtrays in the designated smoking areas, but the butts continue to pile up. With the recent budget cuts causing a lack of part time custodians, this litter continues to grow.

According to the Web site, cigarette butts account for 50 percent of litter, and in developed countries 1 in 3 cigarettes will be littered. Cigarette butts contain chemicals such as cadmium, lead, and arsenic. When left on the ground, these chemicals can leach into our marine environment within an hour of contact with water. The Web site also states that it can take up to 12 years for a cigarette butt to break down.

“There may be a coolness factor in breaking the rules, and these days there is a lot of political correctness around smoking,” said Dr. Jill Stein, chair of the sociology department. Stein has studied group culture and identity. “People who smoke have been stigmatized, so it may be a deviant behavior to engage in smoking and there may be some kind of thrill to being an outsider who is doing something dangerous and outside the norm.”

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It’s possible that with bright red smoking benches rounding cigarette smokers into grouped areas, littering butts can be a nonconformist act.

“Smoking itself is definitely a habit, and people have to deal with their butts on a regular basis,” said Stein. “Habits form through repetition.”

Smoking and flicking cigarette butts are learned behaviors that can be broken.

Many smokers may resent that they are not free to smoke where they please. Certainly it is possible to find an ashtray, yet they choose to throw cigarette butts on the ground. Improperly disposing cigarettes could be part of the smokers’ social group, identity, and culture.

“It may be a little act of out of the norm for people who otherwise have to do a lot of conforming in their everyday lives,” said Stein.

There could also be a reason why some student smokers are not using these designated areas. “I avoid the smoking areas because people hang out there who aren’t even smoking,” said Ace St. John, 21-year-old theatre major. “Every time I go over there to smoke, someone is trying to bum cigarettes from me.”

Whether or not it is a bad habit, an act of defiance, or just a desire for some privacy, these cigarette butts are becoming a problem on campus.

According to Stein, these cigarette butts are an example of collective behavior. The smoking culture at City College can be changed through positive reinforcement, and rewards for cleaning up campus. Another solution to the problem would be implementing laws or fines for littering butts.

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