Kick Butts Day: The Environmental Impact
March 14, 2016

As it is described on its official website, www.kickbuttsday.org, Kick Butts Day is a “national day of activism that empowers youth to stand out, speak up and seize control against Big Tobacco”. Among the goals of the movement is to inform the public about the consequences of tobacco use and empower the next generation to make healthier choices. Taking on this mobilizing role, QuitDoc Foundation health advocates helped organize a day that the youth could get behind- a day of outdoor fun, scientific exploration, teamwork, and environmental activism!

In what the volunteers named the “Grossest Easter Egg Hunt” ever, 12 volunteers from multiple organizations including two Girl Scout Troops, Measure Up Marion: Live Tobacco Free Workgroup, and the Westport High School Key Club, banded together to clean up a favorite Ocala park. As part of the City of Ocala Leave It Better Program, volunteers worked together to clear litter from Tuscawilla Park and separated out the tobacco related materials which included cigarette butts, blunt wrappers, cigarette packs, and lighters. The tobacco related materials collected in a 2 hour span nearly filled a 55 oz container.  

When tobacco users in the park saw how much material the volunteers collected they were shocked. Several smokers were even motivated to join in the cleaning effort. They brought over not only items they had used but cigarette butts from the area around them.

The day wasn’t merely a clean-up activity for the participants. In order to understand just who and what they were helping to impact, the volunteers had a chance to get up close to some of the critters housed in Tuscawilla Pond. Using aquatic animal observation kits, volunteers were able to examine some of the seaweed and water from the edge of the pond (where much of the larger trash had been found). The kids got to see tiny amphipods or shrimp-like creatures, minnows, and diving beetles. These tiny animals were being exposed to trash that had fallen into the water, trash that leaks chemicals as they break down. Filters from cigarettes are non-biodegradable, and while they will eventually break into smaller pieces, the toxic materials never disappear. Cigarette butt litter causes harm all through the food chain of Tuscawilla Pond. The bio-accumulation of harmful chemicals from the smallest larvae to the biggest fish can really wreak havoc on the environment. Check out this Fact Sheet for more information on the environmental impact of tobacco.

As Tammy McNeil, Ocala Girl Scout Troop leader commented, “I had taken the girls to the park on Wednesday and noticed all of the "butts" on the ground. Too many!” Mrs. McNeil and other troop leaders present offered their help with clean-up events in the future.

If you would like to get involved in the next park clean-up on World No Tobacco Day, March 31st at Ocala Regional Sportsplex you can sign up with Sarah Damien, Community Health Advocate, via email SDamien@QuitDoc.com.