Let’s Stub it Out!

The offending items © Photoxpress

Time for a little rant, I think: the first of 2012. Those of you who follow my blog will know that I have a bee in my bonnet about some people’s inability to dispose of their refuse correctly. My indignation was roused yet again this week by a piece on the TF1 news. Do you know how many tonnes of cigarette stubs are collected on the streets of Paris every year?

Answer: 315 tonnes. It’s inconceivable. When you consider how light a mégot (cigarette stub) is, it must take an awful lot to constitute even one tonne. If you multiplied that by the pavement area of France you’d arrive at a whopping figure. Not only are they unpleasant to look at but they also contain toxic residue. Apparently, one mégot can pollute up to six litres of water.

Effective Sanctions?

La Ville de Paris has decided to crack down on this and is soon to issue spot fines of €35 to offenders, most of whom don’t yet realise that they will be fined for dropping their ciggy on the street.

The law that forbids people to smoke inside public places must be partly responsible. While I totally agree with the principle that I shouldn’t be obliged to inhale other people’s cigarette smoke, there are always unforeseen  downsides to laws that are drawn up with the best of intentions.

It hasn’t stopped people smoking; they just go outside to do it instead. We’ve all seen knots of office workers huddled in doorways in sub-zero temperatures puffing away. And in the absence of ashtrays they simply grind the finished mégot underfoot or drop it in the gutter. To address this, Paris is fitting 15,000 special stubbing-out attachments to litter bins (it plans 30,000 by 2014).

Litter Louts

It’s not just the stubs, either. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen someone emerge from le tabac-presse (newsagent) in the village, where they’ve just stocked up on cigarettes, open a packet and simply drop the cellophane and silver paper on the pavement. And there’s a litter bin attached to the wall just beside the door of the shop! To my shame, I have never been brave enough to rebuke the culprits.

That’s not all. You’ll know if you read me regularly that we are very fond of walking. We have the good fortune to live amidst beautiful, largely unspoilt countryside. Unspoilt that is except for the accumulated rubbish on the roadside grass verges. Much of this consists of cigarette stubs and cigarette packets and papers. Sometimes you come across a little heap of cigarette ends where someone has obviously stopped at the roadside to empty out their on-board ashtray. Not to mention the plastic bottles, drinks cans, used Loto tickets and other detritus that people fling from their car windows as they drive along.

And let’s not even think about the number of brush fires caused every year by people carelessly tossing a smouldering cigarette out of their car window.

But why should they bother? No one catches them doing it and someone else can clear it up, can’t they? I have my doubts that the fining system will solve the problem in Paris. It’s too difficult to police something that is so widespread.

By the way, I have nothing against other people smoking if they want to, although the implications for the cost of health services are obvious. I’d just rather they didn’t inflict the spin-offs from their habits on their fellow residents.

Copyright © 2012 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved


  1. Hello, I have just discovered you thanks to Kate!
    I couldn’t agree more with the subject of your post. I live in Quimper, in the Finistère (France). A nice, small, countrified town near the sea. I live in a small house in a small street with a small parking space instead of a front garden. I also live 20 metres upwind of the bus stop. Now that people cannot get on the bus without first stubbing out their cigarette, the wind brings all these cigarette ends up to my little parking lot and front terrace, and I am invaded, literally snowed under with them. And with cigarette packets, cellophane, and all the other things people chuck out in the street. It makes me seriously angry, but it’s a losing battle.


    • Kate is a real inspiration. I see she has kindly awarded us both her personal Forget-me-Not award.

      Re the cigarettes. How disgusting! I do feel for you. At least where we live this sort of thing isn’t possible but I imagine if you live in a town or village, no matter how picturesque, this is an occupational hazard.


  2. Had no idea it was that many! Learned something (j’irai au lit un peu moins bête ce soir) and completely understand your feelings… The one thing I don’t miss about France: smoke, smokers and smoked cigarettes…

    I was surprised that the ban on inside smoking in bars, restaurants, etc. passed a few years ago… Maybe this one will too. Cheers!


    • Astonishing, isn’t it? But I’ve checked it out and it seems to be correct. The figures are available for other French cities too. I don’t think this information is likely to revolutionise your life but it does give perspective on the problem. You sound like a French national who no longer lives in France. I’ll go and check out your blog when I have a moment.


      • I will have to check it out for other cities too… would be interesting to compare.
        That’s right: I am French and live in the USA… I was a “foreign national”, or “alien permanent resident” as they affectionately call us here in the USA. I “upgraded” from alien to citizen a few years ago. Makes no difference really, just prevents me from having to renew a visa every 10 years… Bonne journee!


        • You must miss France – I know I would. Going back to the UK would be difficult after nearly 15 years here. ‘Alien’ is an unfortunate word. It conjures up images of little green men with two heads. I have been thinking about taking French citizenship since I will soon no longer be able to vote in the UK after 15 years away. Bonne soirée.


          • I do Nessa! The more I advance in years (and I am only in my 30’s!!), the less patience I have for the seemingly-deliberate ignorance and idiocies of the locals… I miss culture, delicious food and lazy, looooong dinners. But our goal, with my husband (who is from here and feels the same frustration), is to spend our summers in France. I sometimes feel a bit “alienated” when I return (after all, I am known in my village as “Ze American”), but it is quickly overcome by the warmth of my family, the fun conversations with friends, the “promenades” through beautiful scenery and the looong dinners 🙂
            You must miss the UK too at times, but I am sure you get to go back more often than I do…


            • I hope you achieve your goal of spending summers in France. It’s something to look forward to. There are certain things I miss about England (country pubs, for example) but not that many. When we first lived here I was spending 10 days a month in the UK for my work but I have changed tack since then and go about three times a year. Then I take in things like art exhibitions, seeing friends, etc. That’s good enough!


  3. Yes all the anti smoking law has done is too drive them outside, blocking pavements and making noise which at one time was contained inside. Rumour going around here (Spain) there maybe some form of repeal – we shall see.


    • Interesting: there doesn’t seem to be a similar move here. I must say it makes eating in restaurants much more pleasant. Previously the non-smoking area would be a couple of tables surrounded by smoking tables with people puffing away. But it does have the effect of displacing people outside with all the disadvantages I outline in the post.


  4. I agree too. It gets me pretty riled up. The people that chuck stuff about have no respect for the environment or the rest of the population. Here’s a short extract from my Angloinfo blog Oct 12 2011 – “There’s no excuse not to recycle in our village, the bins are accessible, clearly-marked and almost attractive. And I have the honour of being responsible for the little chap (a small litter bin) under the used battery container! Well, I was the instigator anyway. I’d got fed up with collecting local people’s discarded ciggy packets, sweet wrappers and other bits of litter and having to put them into our (personal ) bin. So, being on the conseil, I requested one for the village, and bingo! A minor triumph but a triumph nonetheless.” Well, it was a start.
    D’you remember the campaigns against litter louts in UK? They certainly didn’t work. It’s probably only education that will have any effect but I can’t help being cynical.
    Footnote: Maybe smokers, having precious little respect for their own health, aren’t likely to have much for anything or anyone else. Or is that a bit strong?!!


    • Well done for sticking it out and getting a bin installed. It’s amazing, though, how many people still drop litter on the street when there’s a bin within a few metres!


  5. I totally agree with you Vanessa. I hate litter of any form. It’s all very well having fines for litter louts, but if they’re never dished out, then the laws may as well not be in place. Outside Caiti’s lycée is disgusting with fag ends everywhere. There isn’t a single bin or anything provided for the students and profs to dispose of their mégots tidily. It’s ridiculous. We get a lot of fag ends dropped round our lakes, even though we provide bins for them. Infuriating. It really is time smokers were more environmentally aware.


    • So much for country-lovers at your lakes. The main culprits around here seem to be the farming community, who don’t display quite the countryperson’s love of the countryside that you might expect.


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