Outdoor Disturbance: Keep Your Butts Inside
It’s early afternoon and a father takes his son out on a boat to enjoy the lake. They pass underneath the ornamental bridge, where a young couple poses for engagement photos. A woman runs along one of the many trails, towards a playground where children laugh and play.
While it sounds quaint, even idyllic, a hidden threat is lurking nearby, completely unseen. It’s second-hand smoke, and it’s coming from a someone lighting up a cigarette on a nearby bench. Many people, especially the spokesmen for big tobacco companies, argue that exposure to outdoor tobacco smoke is insignificant, because it dissipates quickly into the air. But studies show that isn’t the case.
Parks, playgrounds, beaches and other outdoor areas should be safe places where people can enjoy nature and fresh air. No one should have to worry about whether or not they are silently being assaulted with second-hand smoke, which kills tens of thousands of Americans each year.
- The U.S. Tobacco Industry spent an estimated $9.5 BILLION on advertising and promotion of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco in 2012.
- Tobacco companies place most of their advertising in stores where 75% OF TEENS shop at least once per week.
- Stores located near schools contain nearly 3× THE AMOUNT of tobacco advertisements.
- The average age for a new smoker is 13 YEARS OLD.
But it isn’t just parks, playgrounds and beaches that need to be protected. Sidewalk cafés, college campuses, and the outdoor areas of businesses are affected as well. One study found that if you’re dining outside at a café, and you sit within 18 inches of a person who smokes two cigarettes over the course of an hour, your exposure to secondhand smoke could be the same as if you sat one hour inside a bar with smokers.
Not only is the air compromised by outdoor areas that allow smokers, the areas themselves are at risk of being contaminated by the toxic waste that is a cigarette butt. Cigarette butts are the most common waste found in any outdoor cleanup, and are poisonous when ingested by children or animals. They are also fire hazards. One cigarette butt that isn’t extinguished properly can lead to massive community damage. Though small, those butts have a big effect.
It’s time to take a stand against tobacco companies and protect our favorite outdoor spaces and the people who frequent those places. To do so, we must encourage our communities to increase the number of regulations and policies that prohibit tobacco use in those areas. The first step you can take in this fight is to pledge your support to making your community Tobacco Free.
Communities that work together are building healthy, tobacco free futures for us all to live in. Go to www.seenenoughtobacco.org and add your name to the cause. The tireless men and women of Tobacco Free Essex County are constantly fighting to create systems that support policies to change the social norms of tobacco use. They do this by reaching out to communities and helping them understand that they need to demand tobacco-free parks, playgrounds, beaches, worksites and entryways.
The second step to take is to reach out into your own community. Organize cleanups in your community that will clean-up public areas and educate the volunteers on the damage being done in their backyards. By educating your community, you can garner support in the fight against tobacco and the tobacco industry.
To make an even bigger splash, develop relationships with local media stations. Stories about communities affected by tobacco that make their way onto the local news, in local newspapers, or on community websites will help get the word out in a wider way, and will help to hold the tobacco industry accountable for the damage it inflicts.
Again, the fight against big tobacco starts by pledging your support at www.seenenoughtobacco.org. Show that you are in favor of a tobacco free future. Haven’t you had enough?