The sidewalks of Prospect Street in Fredericton are lined with cigarette butts, causing police and city officials to encourage people who smoke and drive to use an ashtray instead of flicking butts into the streets or the mulch beds that line them.  

“It's quite common for us to have mulch fires caused by cigarette butts that are discarded out the window and then blown over in mulch beds in commercial areas,” says assistant deputy fire chief of Fredericton Fire Department, David McKinley.

Fredericton Fire Department recently responded to two reports of fires caused by cigarette butts – on the same day. An easily avoidable problem, it’s an issue first responders say doesn’t need to happen.   

Prince Edward Island RCMP also addressed the issue via Twitter on Friday.

Cigarette butts can take up to 10 years to biodegrade, causing damage to the environment most people might not realize.

“4.5 trillion cigarette butts are discarded into our environment every year,” says director of health promotion of the New Brunswick Lung Association, Barbara Walls. “Fish are being found with filaments in their gut, and that's because the filter is actually a plasticized cellulose acetate – people think it's paper – it's not.”

Two of the main problems with discarding cigarettes into the streets are litter and the potential risk of fires, causing fire officials to caution people who smoke of its detrimental effects.

“We had 39 incidents last year of mulch fires and the vast majority of them were discarded cigarette butts,” says McKinley. “Absolutely do not discard a lit cigarette out a window, because they will stay lit for quite a while after you've discarded it.”

Additionally, some people say it’s not an aesthetically pleasing site to see in a vibrant city area – noting it’s a problem in all areas.

“When I walk around our beautiful town, you see cigarette butts everywhere – and I've done some travelling this summer,” says Walls. “Even on the Cape Breton trail, out in nature, in beautiful places – not just urban – there's cigarette butts everywhere.”

Meanwhile, many modern vehicles don’t include ashtrays; however, ashtrays which can be installed in cup holders are available – something first responders hope more people who smoke use – versus city streets or the environment.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown