It’s time tobacco companies started clearing up their own mess

Some might say its the responsibility of smokers, but its the companies who got them addicted in the first place

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The Independent Online

I think we can all agree that the habit of lobbing rubbish out of a moving (or indeed, parked) car is pretty poor form, in terms of responsible citizenship, polite behaviour and general thoughtfulness. Now, however, such behaviour won’t just fuel the ire of the likes of the Keep Britain Tidy Campaign, and Joanna Lumley, (who has been known to pop rubbish back through the car windows of offenders).

The Government is looking at making it easier for councils to target people who throw litter from their cars by simply fining the owner of the car, not the owner of the crisp packet, as was previously the case.

The overall idea is to make dropping litter as socially unacceptable as drink-driving. As someone who has also handed people back their litter, and pointed out the whereabouts of the nearest bin (much to the horror of my children), this is music to my ears. Litter is not only unhygienic and horrible to see and deal with; it is also expensive. Keep Britain Tidy estimates that the taxpayer foots a £1bn bill to cope with the 30 million tons of litter that are dropped on our country every year.

Other measures being considered include one which requires cigarette companies to start footing the bill for dealing with discarded fag ends and cigarette packets. These are apparently the single biggest source of litter in the UK. Actually, I believe some companies already do something similar. Is it not the case that McDonald’s already have employees tasked with clearing up the droves of Filet-O-Fish and Chicken Nugget boxes discarded on streets within a certain proximity of their restaurants?

But the fag ends are an interesting conundrum, because surely once you have bought the packet of cigarettes, and gone home with them, they are your property and their disposal is your responsibility. After all, if we went down the route of Benson and Hedges funding litter patrols, we might call upon Walker’s Crisps to start sponsoring bins on Oxford Street, Fyffes to pay task forces to deal with discarded banana skins, or Wrigley’s to scour pavements of those hideous circles of cemented gum. Indeed, perhaps the likes of Young’s Brewery might like to venture out at night and mop up the piles of vomit caused by those who have overindulged in their products?


I think with cigarettes, however, the position is quite different. And urgent. Six million butts are dropped in the City of London, which as we all know is merely a single square mile, every year. In the old days, smokers did of course have plenty of methods of disposing of the detritus of smoking, namely the ash tray, a fundamental part of every household’s ornamental system. I would give one every Christmas to my father (who is a chest physician and lifelong non-smoker) and offices would be packed with those weird ones on high chrome stands. Now, of course, that is all over.

Since the ban on smoking in not only public places, but also many private ones too, smokers are forced to feed their addiction outside, where there are no ashtrays. So they flick their butts in the gutter, and carry on with their day. They can’t help it. They are forced to smoke; the cigarette companies which got them in this predicament – and whose product is so undesirable that no public building will tolerate it – should clear up after them.

Tobacco companies already cost us a huge emotional bill thanks to shortened lives, and millions of pounds in terms of healthcare costs and air fresheners; the mounds of litter they cause are surely yet another unwelcome public burden we should heap at their door. 


If jellyfish can fight ageing, then why can’t we?

We can all live to 120, apparently, if we just exercised more, ate healthily and took beneficial drugs such as statins. The Longevity Science Panel, which looks at how long we can all keep going, predicted that if we organised our lives around these simple aims, we might live to a terrifyingly old, old age.

Apparently the certainty of ageing is tosh. Wrinkles, liver spots and dodgy knees are not inevitable – there are some jellyfish, it seems, which do not age at all, because their lives are perfectly healthy. The ageing we experience is because of problems in cell division, which is interfered with by lifestyle factors such as booze, fags and laziness. So how can we avoid this?

In order to slow down the ageing process a calorie-restricted diet is good, so hoorah, all you 5:2 devotees. The drug resveratrol, which helpfully can be found in red wine, is also worth stocking up on. It’s tough, though. In theory, everyone would like a longer life; in practice, it seems not many of us have the stamina to achieve it.

In 1979, 2,500 men were asked to follow the five simple rules of long life; eating properly, keeping fit, never smoking, hardly ever drinking and keeping their weight down. Four decades later, only 25 of them had kept to the plan. The rest were as fit as jellyfish, however.