Kicking smoking in the butt

November 16th 2023 By Aaron Wise 2 minute read

A stunt by Keep Britain Tidy caught my eye this week – and most likely everyone else on Kingston upon Thames’ High Street. 

I’m a sucker for a striking visual stunt and that’s exactly what the independent environmental charity delivered, a mound of 225,000 cigarette butts dumped on a public bench, reflecting the 2.7 million butts dropped on high streets every day. 

The dirty structure was created using discarded butts and aimed to encourage people to stop dropping their stubs.  

Keep Britain Tidy's Allison Ogden-Newton, said: "Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the UK and the consequences to our environment, our wellbeing, and our taxpayer are far more significant than many realise.

“A quarter of a million butts are dropped every hour on UK high streets alone – these areas are cleaned regularly, but the hour-by-hour deluge of butts makes the task of cleaning them up like painting the Forth Bridge – once you've finished, you just have to start again.”
The stunt is timely too (which I imagine played into the decision for Keep Britain Tidy to carry it out when they did), with King Charles reiterating Rishi Sunak’s plan for a UK smoking ban in his first State Opening of Parliament as monarch last week, by raising the legal smoking age by one year, every year. This means a 14-year-old today will never legally be able to buy a cigarette.

King Charles said the legislation would create a “smoke-free generation”, while the Prime Minister said the introduction of stricter measures on smoking would “cut cancer deaths by a quarter” and “significantly reduce long-term pressure” on the NHS.

Last year, a major review led by Dr Javed Khan put the annual cost to society of smoking at about £17bn – with £2.4bn to the NHS alone.

As a non-smoker but from a family of former smokers, I know how addictive and expensive the habit can be. I’ve always seen smoking as undesirable and while I know there will be people out there who oppose with plans (mainly older smokers), I think the generation coming through are more inclined to seek healthier alternatives to stress relieving activities, such as meditation and exercise. 

With the environment being very topical at the moment, the stunt from Keep Britain Tidy also highlights the volume of cigarette butts littering UK streets, making them seem filthy and unattractive – I envy other countries where the streets are spotless! 

All in all, I applaud the charity for the timing of the stunt and the visual impact it’s had as well, receiving decent national coverage and being backed up by striking stats. Now let’s kick smoking in the butt for good.

Related Articles