The Reality Check group at Pittsford Sutherland High School recently held a Cigarette Butt Pick Up along the canal in Pittsford.

Reality Check members wore hazmat suits collecting bags of cigarette butts to put on display to show the negative impact that they have on the environment. Town Supervisor Bill Smith joined to support the efforts of Reality Check students and Smoking and Health Action Coalition staff members: Joseph Potter, Reality Check youth manager; and Lexi Popovici, community engagement manager.

The health risks of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke are known. It is also known that the leading causes of death in the U.S. are lung and heart diseases, which are associated with tobacco use and exposure. But the harm reaches beyond tobacco use and secondhand smoke. Tobacco waste can be seen everywhere in the communities. Cigarette butts are found on streets, parks, sidewalks and benches, which will affect the environment. Most littered cigarette butts are filtered and collect the toxic and harmful chemicals from when the cigarette was smoked. The filtered cigarette butts also leave behind the non-biodegradable plastic filters.

Recent research shows that cigarette butts leach out chemicals into aquatic environments, are accidentally consumed by animals and children and degrade living environments.

It should also be noted that this environmental impact is a social injustice to communities that are burdened with a higher density of tobacco retailers and targeted tobacco marketing. Populations in low socioeconomic, urban and rural communities are susceptible to these practices by the tobacco industry. By raising awareness about the burden of tobacco product waste in the community, a foundation can be created that supports strong tobacco control policies that can directly improve the overall health of the community.

The local Cigarette Butt Pickup took place behind the Pittsford Public Library along the canal.