The second Wednesday of every March is No Smoking Day across the UK and with a range of health-promotion activities on offer, it’s often a great opportunity for people to bin their cigarettes once and for all.
But smoking can impact on more than just individual health and wellbeing: tobacco-related items (cigarette butts, spent matches and empty packets) are the most common type of litter found on our highways and byways. Every single day across Scotland, a staggering 12 tons of such materials are discarded on our streets, with an annual cost of over £34m to clear it up.
There are significant environmental costs too – for example, cigarette filters can take as long as 12 years to decompose, as they include a type of plastic (cellulose acetate) which is photodegradable but not biodegradable. Butts also contain toxins which can leak and contaminate waterways; autopsies of marine life often find that fish, birds and whales have ingested these deadly discards, having mistaken them for food. Globally, over 5 trillion cigarette butts are dumped into our environment every year.
So for 2016’s No Smoking Day, ASH Scotland staff decided to do something a bit different – we went litter-picking in central Edinburgh in support of the #2MinuteCleanUp campaign run by Keep Scotland Beautiful. The idea of the campaign is really simple – by grabbing a bag and some gloves, everybody can do their bit to help tidy up on the way to the bus stop, to school or to work, or whilst out walking the dog. Simply bag the rubbish and then put it in the nearest bin, so that it can be disposed of properly.
And who knows? Perhaps swapping the habit of smoking for the habit of litter-picking might be just the thing to help some folks quit for good and give them something different to do with their hands!