If you are a smoker, and you see one of these cigarette butt cans in your travels this summer, please use it to extinguish your cigarette. You never know… that can could turn into a park bench some day! Photo by Helen Boyd.

If you are a smoker, and you see one of these cigarette butt cans in your travels this summer, please use it to extinguish your cigarette. You never know… that can could turn into a park bench some day! Photo by Helen Boyd.

Comox Valley group initiates ‘Hold On To Your Butt’ Campaign

Program designed to demonstrate need for permanent cigarette disposal units at local beaches

The Comox Valley Nurses for Health & the Environment’s newest initiative – the Hold On To Your Butt Campaign – is set to launch June 15.

“As nurses, the goal is always to support the many ways in which we can help prevent people from taking up the cigarette smoking habit and if they do choose to smoke, to help them quit,” said CVNHE member, Helen Boyd. “Many resources are available, such as the free services of Quit Now BC (https://www.quitnow.ca) which offers tangible supports to meet this goal.”

There is an additional hazard associated with cigarette smoking, that being pollution. Cigarette butts are the most commonly discarded waste product in the world and Canadians drop as many as 8,000 tons of cigarette butts each year.

When wet, these leach toxins and pose a threat to marine life. Most people are unaware that cigarette butts are not biodegradable. The butt of a cigarette is primarily the filter, which is made of a type of plasticized cellulose acetate. With our dry summers, there is also a fire threat when a cigarette is not extinguished properly.

In order to further address the issue of plastics in our oceans, our nursing groups are now launching a new campaign: “Hold on to your Butt.” The tongue in cheek name highlights the goal of the campaign which is to encourage the public to keep their cigarette butts and to discard them appropriately.

“Hold on to your Butt” cans will be strategically located around our waterways: Goose Spit estuary side, Dyke Road Park, Seal Bay Park in Comox and Seaside Trail in Royston. Each can underscores the environmental impacts that cigarette butts have on our ecosystems.

The campaign will run from June 15 to Sept. 15, in conjunction with the CVRD, as a pilot project to demonstrate the need for metal cylinder ashtrays to be affixed where people often congregate along the shorelines.

A nurse will be paired with a student from YEA (Youth Environmental Action) and will monitor and collect on a weekly basis the cigarette butts found in these well-identified metal cans that outline the purpose of our campaign.

At the end of the season, these groups will collate the numbers and send the cigarette butts to Terracycle, where the plastic component of the filters will be recycled into plastic items such as park benches. The results of the pilot project will be shared with the CVRD as the CVNHE advocates for the purchase and installation of permanent ashtrays starting in those areas closest to the ocean.

“We are thankful for the support of Surfrider Vancouver Island, as we will also be able to distribute pocket ashtrays as part of our public education campaign on the health hazards of discarded cigarette butts to our marine life,” said Boyd.

To find out more about this initiative and our social media campaign, visit www.cvnhe.org or contact Helen Boyd, co-ordinator, at cvnhe@telus.net or find us on Facebook (@thecvnhe)