Dropping cigarette butts on the streets

ABC7 Eyewitness News: What's Bugging You?
LOS ANGELES It happens quickly but we've all seen it: people driving, smoking, then dropping the ash out the window. Oftentimes they simply toss the lit cigarette onto the street.

"It's horrendous. It's very disrespectful to everyone else," said L.A. resident Raf Berardinelli.

ABC7 got a number of e-mails complaining about this issue, with viewers outraged that some smokers don't seem to consider it littering.

"It's pretty gross," said another Angeleno. "You shouldn't do that. If you're going to smoke, then butt 'em in the tray. They still make the ashtrays in the car, don't they? Leave it in your car."

Firefighters say they get upset when they see a lit cigarette with hot ash flying out near dry brush -- a volatile combination in Southern California.

"You're throwing something that's burning in Southern California out the window where we're full of dry vegetation throughout. I mean, throughout Southern California, we have what we consider a year-round fire season," said Ventura County Fire Captain Ron Oatman.

"I think that it's completely rude to our environment, and honestly, I think we shouldn't do that," said another Angeleno. "I think that every person that does do that should get tickets for it."

Using the streets as an ashtray can cost you a lot. Fines range from $380 to more than a $1,000 for the first offense. And you could get eight hours of community service picking up trash. But despite the risks, drivers keep doing it.

"People don't deliberately do it to break the law, and they know when you ask them, 'Is it wrong?' And they know that it's wrong," said California Highway Patrol Officer Leland Tang. "It's once again that instinctive behavior that they may have been doing for years, maybe even decades, that we just have to break them of."

Officers admit it's hard catching people in the act, but the question you should ask yourself is: Would you toss lit cigarettes on your living room floor? Then don't do it on the streets.

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