Well, it seems that the health mullahs (credit to who thought of that phrase, I’ve just forgotten who he/she is) down at Bondi Beach are not alone in using ‘the fish’ as the latest argument for banning smoking on beaches. The London Observer has more:
“Smokers are turning Britain’s coastline into a giant deathtrap for marine wildlife, prompting calls for smoking bans on beaches similar to measures being introduced in the US and Australia.
“An authoritative survey of the nation’s beaches reveals that over the past year there has been a sharp rise in the number of cigarette butts being discarded, with potentially fatal consequences for birds, mammals and fish.
“Wildlife groups say the butts, containing a form of plastic called cellulose acetate, can last for up to 100 years and pose serious risks to animals. Figures published by the Marine Conservation Society show that last year there was a 25 per cent rise in the number of discarded butts collected by its volunteers, an increase that has alarmed the charity. During one weekend last September volunteers collected 14,659 butts from 244 beaches – the equivalent of 109 stubs every kilometre. The previous year the society collected around 11,000 butts, or 86.7 every kilometre, suggesting more and more smokers are failing to clean up their litter.”
Oh, where to begin?
Well, it is, of course, highly counter-intuitive to think that the Brits have suddenly started chucking away dramatically larger numbers of cigarette butts over the course of just one year – especially as smoking is on the decline. It’s much more likely that this year’s crop was the result of a more thorough search, but the Observer doesn’t give us data comparing the work (number of volunteers etc.) that went into this year’s “authoritative” survey as compared with the last effort. Funny, that.
More to the point, nasty though it is to throw away cigarette ends on the beach like that, an accretion of 14,659 over the course of one year is hardly a dramatic total, even if it only represents a smallish fraction (does it?) of the butts munched by seagulls or swept out to sea to be swallowed by, er, halibut, flounder and jellyfish.
The only thing that this survey shows is that the anti-tobacco jihadists will clutch at anything, anything , however dubious, to justify their assault on smokers. It would be nice, for once, if they could be held to the same standards of honesty which, quite rightly, we insist on from the cigarette companies.
How about it?