From today, January 17, motorists caught tossing a lit cigarette will cop a hefty fine and for the first time, the thoughtless offence will see demerit points imposed.
During a total fire ban, throwing a cigarette out the window in NSW will cost drivers up to $11,000 and ten demerit points.
The offence will also be punishable during times without a fire ban, where drivers will be penalised with five demerit points.
Passengers who throw cigarettes out the windows onto a road, or near a highway, will also be fined $660, and during fire bans, the penalty will be doubled, amounting to $1320.
In a statement released by the NSW Government in December 2019, when the new penalties were announced, it was reported more than 200 people had been busted throwing lit cigarettes out the window, across the state.
The decision was welcomed by fire authorities throughout the state when the penalties were announced.
“I hope this move makes people think very carefully about the consequences of their actions next time they go to discard a lit cigarette,” NSW Rural Fire Service Association President Brian McDonough said in December.
“This reckless behaviour puts the safety of firefighting volunteers at risk.”
Cigarettes do cause roadside fires
According to Fire and Rescue NSW, every year the firies tend to “hundreds” of roadside fires, which are believed to be caused by discarded cigarette butts.
Jennifer Dainer, a student at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) conducted an experiment with FRNSW and CSIRO, to conclusively prove a lit cigarette can cause a fire.
Ms Dainer lit cigarettes and threw them on to the grass by thee side of the road, in an area where no danger to surrounds.
The results show four per cent of the time, thee grass caught fire quickly and started to burn.
“The fires would have progressed quite quickly if we hadn’t been there,” says FRNSW Parramatta Station Officer Paul Scott.
“It’s no wonder we’re called to so many fires on busy roads and freeways and by railway lines when they can start so easily.”
On the day of the experiment, it was 27 degrees and a north westerly wind and dry.
During the survey of the experiment, within a 60 square metre area in Seven Hills, over a three week period, 426 cigarettes were collected.
The study then gave the FRNSW proof discarding cigarettes cause roadside fires, which then led to the “Don’t be a firebug” campaign.
“As well as the environmental cost associated with littering, there is also the potential for fires from dropped cigarette butts, particularly during bushfire season,” Station Officer Scott said.
“A careless act by one person may have dire consequences for others, including the firefighters who risk their lives at fires.”
How to report tossers
People are encouraged to report motorists who throw their cigarettes butts from cars.
To report tossers, people can do so through the NSW RFS website, by providing the location, date and time, vehicle registration plate details and a description of the vehicle, or by calling the NSW Rural Fire Service hotline on 1800 679 737.
However, people can not report improper disposals anonymously, contact details must be provided if you are making a report.
If a motorist drops a cigarette which isn’t lit, they could still face consequences for littering and people can report that to the Environment Protection Authority.
While reporting smokers carelessly discarding their cigarettes, lit or not, snitches should be advised if they report offences on their mobile phone while driving, they too may be breaking the law.
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.