If you're going to smoke, go ahead. I may not agree with it, and I could list several reasons why you shouldn't. But, in the end, it's your choice. However, is it really that hard to properly take care of the cigarette butts? I really don't enjoy seeing people just toss them out their windows or drop them wherever they're standing, just generally not caring where they end up.

It's quite gross that almost everywhere you go now, the ends of cigarettes are just laying around. It especially irritates me when I find them at parks. I'd like to feel safe when I bring kids there, not having to constantly worry about them finding one and picking it up, or, for the little ones, possibly put them in their mouths.

I've been doing a bit of research, just to find out how much damage leaving this litter behind causes. According to truthinitiative.org, about 4.5 trillion cigarettes are littered every year, which makes up more than one-third of all litter. Not only that, but cities spend between three and 16 million dollars on the cleanup. Just take a moment to let that sink in.

We are spending millions of dollars because people can't properly take care of their cigarette butts.

The article goes on to talk about five different ways that cigarette litter impacts our environment. It dicusses the chemicals they release, what they are made of, if they can properly degrade and how long they take to decompose. I felt it was a pretty good read. I never really thought about some of this stuff before.

A topic I've heard a bit more recently is how cigarettes are affecting marine life. According to tabaccofreelife.org, the cigarette butts in the water are toxic to fish, water fleas and marine bacteria. The plastic from the packaging can be mistakenly eaten, which causes harm, and sometimes death, to marine life.

I know there are some things you just don't generally think about. Some of you don't realize how big of a deal it actually is. But I'm telling you: Cigarette butts are a big deal. They need to be taken care of the right way, not just tossed wherever you please.

There's already enough litter in the world. This makes up most of it. Just think about how fast we can get so much litter and pollution cleared, just but throwing away cigarette butts. That's a huge step in the right direction when it comes to cleaning up our environment.

I understand that it's also not entirely the smoker's fault. Sometimes, there isn't a quick and easy way to dispose of cigarette butts. But at least take the time to problem solve and come up with an idea that would help.

Another thing to think about is fire. I know it's very rare for the butts to cause a fire, but it can certainly happen — and it doesn't take much for a fire to grow. I remember a time when I saw someone toss a cigarette out their window driving. It landed in the median of the road, where mulch and grass were, and it started a small fire. They kept going. The people I was with pulled over to call for help.

So, for those of you who smoke, I wish you would take a little more time to consider the damage you're doing by just throwing your cigarettes anywhere you please. Think about some different options to help you dispose of them correctly, and help us clean up. The world is not an ashtray.