Local youth are celebrating Earth Day this year by participating in community cigarette butt pickups in local parks and neighborhoods. The pickups are being organized by Reality Check, New York State's youth led movement aimed at exposing the deceptive marketing practices of the tobacco industry. The Reality Check youth members planned the events, and are encouraging community members and other youth groups to attend.
The health risks of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke are well known. It is also known that the leading causes of death in the United States are lung and heart diseases, which are both highly associated with tobacco use and exposure. But the harm reaches beyond tobacco use and secondhand smoke. Tobacco waste can be seen everywhere in our communities. We see cigarette butts on streets, parks, sidewalks, benches, and just about everywhere. Most people may see a few at a time, and ignore the issue, but the accumulation of cigarette butts immediately negatively effects the environment. Most littered cigarette butts are filtered, and collect the toxic and harmful chemicals from when the cigarette was smoked. The filtered cigarette butts also leave behind the non-biodegradable plastic filters that last for years. Recent research shows that cigarette butts leach out harmful chemicals into aquatic environments, are accidently consumed by animals and children, and degrade our living environments.
It is also important to note that this environmental impact is a social injustice to communities that are already burdened with a higher density of tobacco retailers and targeted tobacco marketing. Populations in low socioeconomic, urban, and rural communities are susceptible to these unfair practices by the tobacco industry. By raising awareness about the burden of tobacco product waste in our community, we also create a foundation that supports strong tobacco control policies that can directly improve the overall health of our community.
You are invited to attend the cigarette butt pickups and help make our community parks, and the Earth, a healthier place to enjoy!
The local Cigarette Butt Pickups are as follows:
Watkins Glen, NY – Franklin Street– Wednesday, April 2 from 3:10-4:30pm
Corning, NY – Walk from CPP High to Market Street – Thursday, April 21 from 3:15-5pm
Elmira, NY – South Main Street in front of Elmira High– Friday, April 22 from 3:15-4:30pm
Spencer, NY – Nichols Park – Saturday, April 23 from 11-12:30pm