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    This Earth Day, Help Keep Our Environment Free of Tobacco Litter


    This Earth Day, Help Keep Our Environment Free of Tobacco Litter
    A Community-Wide Invitation to Celebrate Earth Day by Cleaning Up Cigarette Butts

    Monday April 22 – Earth Day – Clean Up Tobacco’s Toll on the Environment


    "Some people who talk about the environment talk about it as though it involves only a question of clean air and clean water. The environment involves the whole broad spectrum of man's relationship to all other living creatures, including other human beings. It involves the environment in its broadest and deepest sense.” - Gaylord Nelson, Founder of Earth Day

    Gaylord Nelson, former senator of Wisconsin, proposed Earth Day in 1970 as a way to “get a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment so large that it would shake the political establishment out of its lethargy.”1 Now some 53 years later, Earth Day is celebrated by millions of participants advocating for our environment and the land, air, water, and built environments on which we depend. The work of protecting our environment is never complete. A necessary part of this protection includes the clean-up of damage already done to our natural world and the prevention of further destruction through local environmental initiatives.

    In celebration of Earth Day, Jefferson County Public Health and tobacco prevention advocates across Jefferson County invite a community-based effort to clean up the tobacco litter that so negatively impacts the environment. It is estimated that several trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide every year,2 flicked one at a time on our sidewalks, beaches, nature trails, gardens, and other public places. In fact, cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world with an estimated 845,000 tons of butts littered globally each year.3 Cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate tow, not cotton, and they can take decades to degrade.4 Not only does cigarette litter ruin even the most picturesque setting, but the toxic residue in cigarette filters is damaging to the environment and dangerous for animals and people. In addition, littered butts cause numerous fires every year, some of them fatal.

    Although tobacco litter shows up most frequently in the form of cigarette butts scattered around our streets, parks, and open spaces, the impact of tobacco on the environment goes much deeper than the surface. Research conducted by

    the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated that cigarette debris is responsible for killing at least one million sea birds and 100,000 mammals annually,5 and a recent study led by Elli Slaughter of San Diego State University shows that when cigarette butts enter the water supply, they are deadly to fish and marine life. 6 Tobacco production is also responsible for global deforestation, requiring nearly 600 million trees annually to provide fuel for drying tobacco. That means one tree is destroyed for every 300 cigarettes produced.7 Consistently the number one cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, the production and consumption of tobacco leaves a wake of devastation for both people and the planet.

    In a 2012 article by the National Parks and Recreation Association, leaders from both the public health and park and recreation fields make a strong argument for keeping parks tobacco-free because of the dangers of secondhand smoke, tobacco litter and modeling healthy behaviors to youth.8 On May 3rd, students from five Wheat Ridge area schools will participate in the cleanup of Crown Hill and Discovery Parks, during the 3rd annual Butt Pick-Up organized by Jefferson County PTA and Jefferson County Public Health.

    This Earth Day, we urge you to consider the impact of tobacco on the natural world while supporting the movement to create a healthier community. Take steps to quit all forms of tobacco and support community efforts to pass stronger smoke-free laws that protect everyone from the harms of tobacco and secondhand smoke. If you have yet to quit smoking, make every effort not to litter your cigarette butts. Jefferson County Public Health urges community members to get involved in local coalitions such as Breathe Easy Wheat Ridge, Healthy Unincorporated JeffCo, and Breathe Easy (BE) Teams for youth, working for tobacco prevention and the health of Jefferson County. Together we can clean up and protect our environment from the far-reaching toll of tobacco.

    For more information and to get involved in community efforts in Wheat Ridge, Golden, Unincorporated Jefferson County or Lakewood, please visit www.tobaccofreejeffco.com or call Donna Viverette at 303-275-7555.
    · Resources used in this article:
    1. Gaylord Nelson and Earth Day. The Making of the Modern Environmental Movement http://www.nelsonearthday.net/.
    2-3. Novotny TE, Lum K, Smith E, Wang V, Barnes R. Cigarettes Butts and the Case for an Environmental Policy on Hazardous Cigarette Waste. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2009; 6(5):1691-1705. http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/6/5/1691#cite .
    4 & 6. Toxicity of cigarette butts, and their chemical components, to marine and freshwater fish. Elli Slaughter, Richard M Gersberg, Kayo Watanabe, John Rudolph, Chris Stransky, Thomas E Novotny http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/20/Suppl_1/i25.full.pdf+html.
    5. U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. noaa.gov. (2005, November 21).
    7. Agriculture and Environment: Tobacco accessed from http://www.leavethepackbehind.org/tob_environment.php.
    8.http://www.parksandrecreation.org/2012/November/5-Key-Trends-in-Parks-and-Public-Health/


    Nancy
    Braden
    303-239-7137
    nbraden@jeffco.us

    June 19, 2013


    Last Updated: 6-10-2013