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Youth group plans cigarette butt cleanup April 12

SIMCOE, ON, APRIL 3, 2008 – Building on last year’s successful campaign, the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit’s Youth Action Alliance will be cleaning up cigarette butts in both counties on Saturday, April 12.

The youth group, known locally as Fresh Heir, will strive to raise awareness that “little butts can make a big difference” by making “butt stops” in Port Dover, Simcoe, Waterford, Delhi, Jarvis, Cayuga, Hagersville, and Caledonia. Fresh Heir’s teenage Peer Leaders and their volunteers will collect as many cigarette butts off the ground as possible in a 30-minute to 40-minute time span before heading off to their next destination.

The motto, “Change Starts Here,” was chosen to emphasize that proper disposal of cigarette butts is a small step that individuals in our community can take to produce an impact on a greater scale.

“We wanted to have an event that would inspire the community to make positive change in overall health and appearance,” Peer Leader Katie Mattina said. “April was the ideal time to launch this campaign, since both International Kick Butts Day and Earth Day fall during this month.”

“This time we want to make more of an impact,” said Peer Leader Michelina Palermo. “Our first cigarette butt cleanup last August 2007 was a great success, with a collection of more than 20,000 cigarette butts. With our experience from last year and volunteer support, we hope to collect more than 30,000 cigarette butts from local parks, walkways and community centres this year.”

An estimated 4.5 trillion butts are littered worldwide every year. In both national and international coastal and city street cleanups, cigarette butts routinely top the list of the most common litter item collected. Cigarette butts can be ingested by animals and children, causing serious harm. They can also smoulder for up to three hours, potentially starting brush or forest fires. Also, improperly discarded cigarette butts are often carried into drains or in rivers, where they leach their harmful chemicals, such as lead and arsenic, into the water supply.

“Many people think that cigarette butts are made of paper and cotton, and since they are so small they are harmless to the environment; however, that is not the case at all,” said Fresh Heir Peer Leader Kelsea Parker. “Cigarette filters are actually made of cellulose acetate, a plastic that can take many years to break down, and during that process release the harmful mixture of chemicals trapped inside.”

This cleanup is a part of the group’s multi-step action plan to educate the community about the environmental and health hazards of littered cigarette butts. The group of dedicated youth are also advocating to tobacco companies, requesting that they include inserts or messages on their packages to encourage proper disposal of their dangerous product, similar to those found on coffee cups and fast food packaging, or to design more environmentally-friendly filters.

As a small step in improving both the beauty and cleanliness of our community, as well as protecting the health of those living in Haldimand and Norfolk, Fresh Heir is hoping to raise awareness and mobilize the community to take initiative on this issue because “Change Starts Here.”

Media Contact:
Josh Daley
Youth Advisor
Smoke-Free Ontario Program
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
519-426-6170 ext. 3276