Natural Resources, School of


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Miller, M. R., Burbach, M. E. (2020). Cigarette butt disposal behavior: A case study of a public beach on Jekyll Island, Georgia, USA. Environment and Natural Resources Research, 10, 27-43.




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Improperly discarded cigarette butts are a substantial environmental problem. This study explored factors influencing cigarette butt discarding behavior on a public beach on Jekyll Island, Georgia, USA. A mixed-mode design utilized quantitative and qualitative data to study improper cigarette butt disposal. We surveyed smokers regarding their place attachment, environmental attitudes, environmental awareness, and habit as predictors of improper cigarette butt disposal. Environmental attitudes, environmental awareness, and habits were significant predictors of improper cigarette butt disposal behavior. A qualitative inquiry further explored the phenomenon of cigarette butt disposal from the smokers’ perspectives. Interviews illustrated that “improper disposers” experienced themes involving uncertainty that cigarette butts are litter, a lack of knowledge, problems with cigarette butt receptacles currently in place, the requirement of a conscious choice about how and where to discard a butt, and statements that contradicted the behavior observed. Themes that emerged from interviews with “proper disposers” included cigarette butts are clearly litter, awareness of social constructs that disapprove of smokers and their behavior, awareness of the cumulative effects of cigarette butts on the beach, minimal obstacles to discarding properly, and feelings of personal responsibility. Implications of the study results are discussed.