Reality Check teens celebrate Earth Day with tobacco waste cleanup

Young people worked to clean up cigarette waste. (Images courtesy of Cicatelli Associates Inc.)

Fri, April 29, 2022 12:55 p.m.

Submitted by Cicatelli Associates Inc.

As an Earth Day project this year, Reality Check youth from Cataract Elementary School, LaSalle Prep and Gaskill Prep cleaned up more than 375 cigarette butts and other tobacco waste around the Packard Court Community Center on the 26th april.

Not only is smoking the number one cause of preventable death, but cigarette butts are the most common form of litter.

Although the Packard Court Community Center is a tobacco-free site, cigarette butts can still be found scattered about. One youth, J’Shawna, was shocked at the amount of cigarette butts they picked up and asked if we could clean up at other parks in Niagara Falls: “My friends and I love going to Hyde Park summer and would love to do a butt clean up there. Other kids shouldn’t see so much litter when hanging out in the parks.

Niagara County’s adult smoking rate is 21.6%, which is significantly higher than the statewide average smoking rate of 12.8%. New York State high school youth smoking is at an all time low of 2.4%. However, 22.5% of high school kids in New York State use e-cigarettes, a dangerously high number.

“We have a new generation of young adults addicted to nicotine, and another generation now in middle school and high school who are starting to use these products,” said Amanda Hucksoll, program manager for Reality Check. “Unfortunately, these teenagers are becoming victims of the tobacco industry.”

Tobacco product waste threatens the environment

Cigarette butts represent more than a third of all litter collected worldwide. They do not decay and release toxic chemicals into the environment, leading to soil, water and air pollution. E-cigarette waste potentially poses a greater environmental threat than cigarette butts, as e-cigarettes introduce plastic, nicotine salts, heavy metals, lead, mercury, and flammable lithium-ion batteries into yards. water, soil and wildlife.

Second-hand smoke from tobacco products and e-cigarettes contributes significantly to air pollution. In addition, second-hand smoke from combustible cigarettes contains over 7,000 carcinogenic and toxic chemicals. Additionally, exhaled smoke from e-cigarettes, or “aerosol,” contains carcinogens, formaldehyde, benzene, and volatile organic compounds. According to the Surgeon General, there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke.

Vaping puts the health of young people at risk

In youth and young adults, nicotine addiction can cause irritability, anxiety/depression, trouble concentrating, and trouble sleeping. And, because the brain continues to develop until about age 25, nicotine can disrupt brain development.

“The impact of nicotine addiction can so easily lead to increased mental health problems, worsening addiction and ultimately produce a decline in overall health in young people,” said Krista Douvlos, responsible for youth and community engagement in tobacco prevention.

Reality Check empowers youth in the area and across New York State to become leaders by exposing what they see as the tobacco industry’s manipulative and deceptive marketing tactics. Tobacco industry marketing and promotion has long appealed to teenagers and young adults. Reality Check youth inspire their peers and communities to take action and raise awareness of the benefits and need for smoke-free and tobacco-free spaces. Additionally, young people are working to develop a no-tobacco norm, where second-hand smoke and tobacco litter are not part of the landscape in their community.

Reality Check is supported by Tobacco-Free Erie & Niagara, a CAI-administered project that aims to advance tobacco-free communities in Erie and Niagara counties through education, community mobilization and policy change to reduce the burden of smoking and prevent future initiation.

About Margaret Shaw

Check Also

BACK TO SCHOOL: Using e-cigarettes at school can help discipline

The impact of e-cigarettes on our schools In recent months, great steps have been taken …