Students from Genesee County’s Reality Check program have noticed a big problem of littered cigarettes scattered all across county parks. So they’ve decided to do something about it.
This Saturday, Sept. 30, with plastic bags in hand, the students will go through DeWitt Recreation Area and pick up all the cigarette butts littering the park. The event will kick off at 10 a.m.
Reality Check is New York State’s youth-led movement aimed at exposing the deceptive marketing practices of the tobacco industry and supporting a tobacco-free generation for their peers.
Shelly Wolanske, youth engagement coordinator at Tobacco-Free GLOW, said the students got the idea when they were working out in the park this summer and noticed all the smokers and the butts they were leaving behind. The group wants their generation to be tobacco-free, and all citizens of Genesee County to breathe cleaner air when they are enjoying a picnic, bike ride or play time.
“I have trouble breathing when people around me are smoking,” said Ben Streeter, a freshman at Notre Dame High School. “Plus, we see so many cigarette butts near the playground where little kids play.”
To prevent children in the community from feeling those same effects due to secondhand smoke, Streeter and his fellow Reality Check advocates decided to rally for smoking bans in all the parks in Genesee County. Their Cigarette Butt Pickup on Saturday is the first event they are sponsoring to raise awareness for a smoking ban.
Wolanske said she and the students will take the plastic bags of cigarette butts collected with them to meetings with Genesee County elected officials to discuss a possible ban in the future. If Genesee County declares its parks tobacco-free, they would be following the lead of the City of Batavia, as well as other counties in New York State, including nearby Erie County.