News and Events

Tobacco Use, the Environment, and Levy County Parks
March 12, 2020

Many people are aware of the detrimental impact tobacco has on health, but rarely consider the significant impact tobacco has on the environment as well. Cigarette butts are the most littered roadway item in the country, making up nearly 38% of all collected litter(1). In addition to the butts found on roadways, cigarette butts are also the most littered item in storm drains, construction sites, retail areas, loading docks, and recreational areas(1). The waste from cigarettes can lead to land, water, and air pollution by leaching toxic chemicals into the environment.

Studies have estimated that smokers litter as many as 65 percent of their cigarette butts(2), and 3 out of 4 smokers report disposing of them on the ground or out of a car window(3). Unfortunately, cigarette filters are made from a type of plastic that only degrades under certain biological circumstances, like filters collected in sewage. Therefore, cigarette butts tossed on the beach, street, or grass do not biodegrade.


Inglis Central Park

In addition to cigarette filters and cigarettes, lighters, cigar tips, tobacco packages, wrappers, and electronic cigarette cartridges and pens also comprise a significant amount of litter removed from U.S. waterways and parks. Cigarette butts cause pollution by being carried as runoff to drains, and from there to rivers, beaches, and oceans.

One laboratory study found that the chemicals that leached from a single cigarette butt soaked for a day in a liter of water released enough toxins to kill fifty percent of the freshwater and saltwater fish exposed to it for 96 hours(4). Another study found that cigarette butts can be one source for heavy metal contamination in water(5).

A recent community environmental scan of a dozen city and county parks and recreation areas across Levy County found that overall, there is tobacco litter in parks, however, it appears to be less than expected in some areas. This is likely due to voluntary tobacco free parks policies enacted by local municipalities and posted signs. However, it was noted that cigarette butts tended to be concentrated near the entrances to the parks and around the picnic areas. Out of the twelve Levy parks scanned, other tobacco-related litter found included three lighters, two cigar wrappers, multiple plastic cigar tips, an empty Marlboro pack, a Marlboro promotion cellophane, and two cans of smokeless tobacco.

Specifically, the most shocking finding was hundreds of cigarette butts littering the grass bordering the parking lot and entrance to Strickland Park in Chiefland. It’s apparent that runoff has collected these butts from the parking lot, and they collected at the lowest point, which is unfortunately next to the entrance and main sign for the park. This creates an unsightly and foul-smelling experience for visitors as soon as they arrive.

Cigarette butt collection containers could be helpful to install in the parking lot to encourage proper disposal of butts before entering the park. The encouraging discovery was very few butts near the sports fields, dugouts, concession stand, and bleachers, however there were a significant amount near the picnic tables and benches bordering the playground. Additional signs that specifically address tobacco use and proper disposal of litter like butts could also have an impact on encouraging responsible behavior. Finally, extending the tobacco free park policy to include the parking lot is also a viable solution.

Youth and families who attend ball games, use trails, beaches, and picnic shelters, or attend community events in Levy parks deserve to have their health protected by fellow parkgoers adhering to the tobacco-free policies as well as those at playgrounds and youth athletic events. Tobacco use not only exposes participants and spectators to the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, but it is also a nuisance and safety concern. The litter caused by tobacco use diminishes the beauty of the city and county park areas and can be accidentally ingested by young children. In addition, Levy parks should be places where everyone can go to improve their health and fitness, relax, and have fun.

 


Strickland Park Playground in Chiefland, Florida.


Yankeetown Fisherman's Park


James H. Cobb Park, Bronson

   

To connect with the Tobacco Free Partnership of Levy County, visit www.TFP-Levy.org or call 352-577-4309. Also, you can refer a friend or loved one who wants to quit to Tobacco Free Florida’s free tools and services. Visit tobaccofreeflorida.com/quityourway for more information.

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References:

  1. Keep America Beautiful. National Visible Litter Survey and Litter Cost Study. 2009; http://www.kab.org/site/DocServer/Final_KAB_ Report_9-18-09.pdf?docID=4561.
  2. Keep America Beautiful. Littering Behavior in America: Results of a National Study. 2009; http://www.kab.org/site/DocServer/KAB_Report_Final_2.pdf?docID=4581.
  3. Rath JM, Rubenstein RA, Curry LE, Shank SE, Cartwright JC. Cigarette litter: smokers’ attitudes and behaviors. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2012;9(6):2189-2203.
  4. Slaughter E, Gersberg R, Watanabe K, Rudolph J, Novotny TE. Toxicity of Cigarette Butts, and their Chemical Components, to Marine and Freshwater Fish. Tob Control. 2011;20:i23-i27.
  5. Moerman JW, Potts GE. Analysis of Metals Leached from Smoked Cigarette Litter. Tobacco Control. 2011;20(Suppl 1):i30–5.