'Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette!'

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

This phrase from the popular Phil Harris song back in the 50's and 60's lamented cigarettes and the health problem they caused.

The second line to that song is "Puff, puff, puff and if you puff yourself to death, tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate that you just hated to make him wait!"

Smoking continues to be a health threat today and also translates into a significant litter and environmental problem for not only Iowa, but the nation.

Iowans have a strong sense of pride in their State. They get highly irritated when they pull up behind a vehicle and see the driver or a passenger throw a cigarette butt out the window. The same is true when running the gauntlet of smokers outside a business building and having to look at the hundreds of cigarette butts on the ground (even with smoking receptacles nearby).

There are an estimated 430,000 smokers in Iowa, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health (early 2008 data). Assuming an average of one pack smoked a day, smokers produce an estimated:

*7,300 cigarette butts per year per smoker.

*31,390,000 butts (the majority of those are with a filter) per year, with each weighing 0.10 of an ounce or 2.0 ounces per pack.

*2,341,750 pounds (approximately 142 tons) of cigarette butts per year.

*That represents 7,847,500 or 35.5 tons of cigarette butts that end up on our landscape (assuming a figure of 25% of the cigarette butts), negatively impacting our natural and cultural environment each year. Remember that a filter can last from three to seven years so the cumulative effect can be even more significant.

Impacts on society are equally important and include:

*An unsightly cultural blemish on the landscape.

*Debris and chemical pollution in our State's waters.

*Fires resulting from those thrown cigarette butts that cause thousands of dollars of expense.

*A habit that encourages forms of civil disobedience such as littering.

For those of you who are still smoking, please be considerate of others and our environment - smoke in designated places and dispose of your cigarette and tobacco litter properly.

Keep Iowa "Clean, Green and Tobacco Free," as well as beautiful.