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January 21, 2017

Students clean up butts

Don’t like cigarette butts cluttering up your campus? Neither do the University of Massachusetts students who volunteered last Sunday to collect stray ones across campus for the fourth annual “No Butts About It” event. 

Stations were set up outside of Franklin, Worcester and Berkshire Dining Commons from 12 to 3 p.m. Sunday, where participating students were given a pair of latex gloves and a zip-lock bag to hunt for cigarette butts. The event was organized by the Student Health Advisory Board (SHAB), which serves as a liaison between students and University Health Services. 

The purpose of “No Butts About It” is to raise awareness of the pernicious environmental effects of smoking, rather than just the health risks.

“We aren’t saying not to smoke but to be more cautious of where you dispose of cigarettes,” said Tom Schiff, supervisor of the Student Health Advisory Board. From the lawn of the W.E.B. Du Bois to dormitory areas, students spent the afternoon picking up the remnants of once-smoked cigarettes. According to Schiff, “If you look around a dorm building you can see hundreds of cigarette butts. We want people to keep in mind that the campus is our home.”

Another goal of the event was to help foster, in smokers, a more courteous demeanor toward those around them by acknowledging the risks of second-hand smoke.   

“There are huge amounts of evidence that smoking is harmful to people around us. So people should move away from entrances and think about their neighbors,” said Schiff.  

According to SHAB President Nathan Colon, “The process of making cigarettes takes a toll on the planet. Everyone always learns about the personal affects of smoking, but the environmental impacts are neglected. It takes 25 years for cigarette butts to decompose, so often they are there for people’s lifetime.”

Cigarette butts have a negative impact on the environment by being harmful to animals and forest. The tobacco industry burns as much as one acre of forest for every acre of tobacco. Many animals and fish eat cigarette butts by mistake and die because their bodies have no way to digest the filters.

Last year, students collected 12 pounds of cigarette butts, and about 30 students participated. “This year over 60 students signed up,” said Schiff.

Students were asked to return the collected butts to a designated station so that they can be on display for the American Cancer Society’s “Great American Smoke-Out.” The “Great American Smoke-Out” is a day when smokers stop smoking for the day and hopefully continue trying to quit after. Now in its 31st year, the event takes place every third Thursday in November.

“On this day, millions of Americans choose to quit smoking. Most people who smoke want to quit smoking, but it takes a number of attempts,” said Schiff.

There will be a table set up in the campus center Nov. 19 in honor of this event, when collected cigarette butts will be on display. Last year, students in the art department created art work and sculptures out of the butts.

“The purpose of the event is to be an eye-opener to the campus. We want students to realize the number of cigarettes left behind and what it’s doing to the environment,” said Colon.

Lisa Linsley can be reached at llinsley@student.umass.edu.

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