A letter to the smoker who just threw a cigarette butt on the sidewalk

Dear smoker,

You. Yes, you. I saw what you just did back there. How you hurled your cigarette butt to the curb and stubbed it with your foot in one effortless and well-coordinated sequence. I have to say, you’ve got it down to an art. It’s obviously not the first time you’ve done that.

I get it. You’re probably thinking the sidewalk is already strewn with cigarette butts anyway, so what the hell. Might as well pile yours onto the rest, right? Everybody else seems to be doing it, so why can’t you? And you certainly aren’t alone in thinking that way. Just four months ago, volunteers picked up more than 200,000 cigarette butts from all over Brussels. Tell me, how many of them were yours? Five? Ten? Too many to count? What a way to contribute to the city.

Here’s what I don’t get. Why dump your cigarette butt on the ground when there’s a trash bin nearby or just a few meters away? Don’t tell me I’m wrong. I’ve lived in Brussels long enough to notice that there’s no shortage of trash bins in public places. Practically every block has one. Some communes even provide cigarette bins. So what’s your excuse?

The trash can is just over there, dude.

Maybe it’s just something you do out of habit, and some habits are hard to break. Or perhaps, it’s just one of those things you do mindlessly, no harm intended. You probably don’t even realize you’re actually adding to the problem of city pollution which you so love to complain about.

See, that’s the funny thing. We often whine about how dirty Brussels is, and we keep blaming our local government for it. But who left their trash out there in the first place? Who let their dog take a crap on the street and didn’t bother to pick up the poop? Who just threw a cigarette butt on the sidewalk?


Sure, you can always argue that you pay your taxes anyway. So why not let the government take care of cleaning up after your mess? But you see, it takes a city to maintain a city. It’s not just the responsibility of our government officials. It also rests on you and me. And if you’ll keep thinking to yourself that, “Everybody else is doing it, anyway,” then I’m sorry to say we will never graduate from this mess.

But what if each one of us will try to break away from that old mentality, that old habit? Who knows what wonders it will do for Brussels, our city, our home? Smoking already contributes to pollution. The least you can do is put your cigarette butt where it belongs.

A fellow smoker who no longer subscribes to the old mentality