Celebrating (Cigarette) Butt-Free Beaches

The ClearWay Minnesota team worked hard to create the sandcastle for the Aquatennial competition. The "sick fish" encourages Minnesotans to keep cigarette butts out of our beaches and waters.

This weekend my family and I had the opportunity to participate in the Aquatennial Sandcastle Competition. It was a lot of fun and we took the opportunity to get creative. We built a castle with a message: our beaches should be butt-free.

We know cigarettes are harmful to humans, containing 11 known cancer-causing poisons and 250 known toxins, but cigarette butts also have an environmental impact. Surprisingly, 625,000 Minnesotans still smoke and many of their cigarette butts end up in our parks, on our sidewalks, and on our beaches.

New studies have looked at the environmental impact of cigarette butt litter. One study found that 80 percent of littered cigarette butts find their way into our water systems and preliminary results show that the chemicals seeping out of cigarette butts— nicotine and ethylphenol—can be acutely toxic to fish and micro-organisms.

One laboratory study found that a single cigarette butt in a liter of water killed half of the fish exposed. Almost 53 million cigarette butts and filters have been collected from beaches around the world in the past 25 years. In fact, they account for 30 percent of all debris collected – over three times more than any other item.

As Minnesotans we place a high value on our lakes and beaches, it’s important we keep them clean. You can help by reaching out to your family and friends who smoke and encourage them to get help quitting this summer. Fewer Minnesota smokers will result in less cigarette litter, which is good for everybody – including our Nemo. 

View the video of team ClearWay Minnesota's sandcastle.

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