The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Cigarette Butts cover campus

Sparkling fountains, shady trees, lush grass and scampering squirrels announce the arrival of spring at Southern Methodist University.

Brochures and college recruiters proclaim the campus’ beauty, but a quick trip behind Fondren Library reveals a different image. The ground is littered with discarded cigarette butts.

Creighton Holley, a junior corporate communications and public affairs major, explained that this area is a favorite haunt of late-night students on smoke breaks.

“Most of the smokers are at the library—and mostly at night,” Holley said.
Holley showed frustration at the smokers’ inability to properly dispose of their spent cigarettes, “It’s such a beautiful campus, the least smokers could do is pick up after themselves.”

SMU’s community standards specify that smokers must stay a minimum of 25 feet away from buildings and throw away all cigarette ends.  Yet, students continue to casually flick butts on the ground, despite this policy.

Some smokers on campus disregard trashcans and ashtrays even when they are within reach, as evidenced by the butts scattered around the bases of trashcans on campus. One student complained about this behavior.

“I do see a lot of cigarette butts in the actual ashtrays, but when I see them on the floor it makes me think someone is really lazy,” Vanessa Tapia, a junior public policy major said.
Tapia’s opinion of litters’ lethargy is shared by experts.

Apparently, “90 percent of littered cigarette butts are dropped within 10 feet of an ashtray,” according to Amy, Allie and Dave Steinmetz of the No Butts About it Litter Campaign on their awareness website.

“It kind of surprises me… our campus is gorgeous, it’s like seeing a zit on a beautiful face; it just looks bad,” Tapia said.

The large groups of prospective students visiting campus each week may not find SMU’s blemishes very appealing. Littered cigarette butts not only detract from the beauty of

SMU’s campus; they are also harmful to the environment.

Smokers may think their discarded cigarette ends will decompose like paper or cotton.

However, many websites like and tell another story.

These sites inform visitors that, like all litter, cigarette butts harm the environment. Almost every cigarette filter contains acetate, a material similar to plastic that can take upwards of 20 years to biodegrade. explains that while decomposing, cigarette butts release toxins like nicotine and tar into the environment. These toxins harm ecosystems and can kill wildlife and even leak into water supplies.

If aesthetic and environmental health concerns will not compel smokers to walk those extra few steps to the trashcans, perhaps money and numbers can offer a more persuasive argument.

The Steinmetz’ stated that each year in America 176,000,000 pounds of butts wind up on the ground and this can cost the average university around $30,000 to clean up their campus. According to Campus Planning and Plant Operations, SMU spent more than twice the average to remove cigarette butts from our campus with cleanup totaling just over $66,000 in 2008.

Kathe Lee, a transfer student from Richland College said. “It bothers me tremendously to see cigarette butts on the side of the road or dumped in a pile beside a vending or trash collecting area. It should be illegal.”

Littering in Texas is illegal.  Since cigarette butts are considered litter, violators can be and are punished.

The Don’t Mess With Texas’ website reveals that people who litter face fines of up to $500 for initial offenses and up to $2,000 and 6 months of jail time for multiple infractions. Regardless of the law, butts are still littered.

Many advocates of proper cigarette disposal like the Steinmetz’, and suggest that smokers litter by habit, rather than with malicious intent. These groups argue that if educated of cigarette butts’ harmful effects smokers would quit littering.

Keep America Beautiful has developed the Cigarette Litter Prevention Plan, which relies heavily on education. Keep America Beautiful reported an average success rate of 46 percent reduction of cigarette litter in participating communities.

Interviewed SMU students like Holley agreed that higher awareness is the best route to prevention. Even smokers who admitted to littering, but wished to remain anonymous, listed better enforcement and education as keys to reducing litter.

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