Have you noticed that smokers are still dotting our landscapes with their used cigarette butts? Very annoying. Now we have a new offense: We’re seeing COVID masks sprinkled around the ground because people are done with them outside hospitals and other places where they’re required.
Smokers have for years refused to use their car ashtrays, probably because they either were sickened by the smell or refused to leave any evidence that they had been seduced by the ridiculously dangerous habit. (Six million people still die every year because they smoked.)
Not that we’re done with the cigarette-butt misery. Not by a mile.
Astonishingly, 11 percent of adult Americans still smoke. The good news is that that is down 1 percent from last year; the bad news is that it’s still 11 percent too many.
We don’t have figures on how many of them step on their cigarettes before walking into a public place or heave them out the car window because they’re about to burn their fingers.
Almost all smokers likely wish they didn’t, and we’re rooting hard for them to conquer the diabolical habit. Meanwhile, they’d do us all a favor if they’d quit throwing their used-up cigarettes onto the ground and leaving them there.
This new litter comes as something of a shock, though. If you approach public places that require COVID masks, such as a hospital, you’re probably going to find masks strewn around the parking lot or the entryway. Remarkably, some people seem to believe that, when finished using these lifesavers, it’s acceptable to take them off and just drop them.
We could be wrong about this observation, but, the more we meander around, the more masks we come across.
If you reuse the masks, as most do, leaving them on a sidewalk or in a parking lot would appear to be a mistake. Most of us don’t have a limitless supply of those devices.
Yet, as more and more masks appear underfoot, it is becoming painfully obvious that too many people think of this as a permissible option. It isn’t.
If you were a member of the staff responsible for keeping the hospital, or other venue, clean, who would have imagined that picking up used masks off the ground would become a routine part of your work day?
And how safe could it be? Masks are used on our faces, some of our most intimate and vulnerable regions. Leaving those germs for others to worry about is inconsiderate and dangerous.
And, incidentally, we hear from time to time how somebody with a political ax to grind has given someone wearing a mask in a store a hard time. In some circles, a mask is a sign of stupidity or weakness. It isn’t.
Those thoughtless critics have no idea what’s going on in the wearers’ lives: their own vulnerabilities or the vulnerabilities of someone in their household.
We strongly urge anyone who feels the need to keep wearing the mask to do so.
But don’t discard it onto the ground when you’re done with it.
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