Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world and one of SWAT’s biggest efforts in Jackson County is to get the parks tobacco free. Discarded cigarettes pollute the parks and may be ingested by toddlers, pets, and birds. “You might think cigarette butts are made of cotton, but they are not. It takes five to ten years for a disposed cigarette to decompose and when it does, the harmful toxins are released into our soil and waterway.” says Sommer Bingham, Navajo SWAT team.
SWAT youth presented information about Tobacco Free Park and Prevention of Youth Access to Tobacco ordinances to the Altus City Council on March 2. The City Council voted 7 to 1 authorizing the city attorney, Catherine Coke, to draft ordinances. While the SWAT youth are waiting for the ordinances to be approved in April, they are distributing door hangers asking residents to support the ordinances by voicing their opinion to their local city council members.
“Parks and sport recreational areas are for play, not tobacco use” said Dessiree Knox, SWAT member. “We need to have clean, safe play areas.” The purpose of park areas is to promote community wellness, and tobacco free policies fit with this idea and promote positive role modeling. 78,000 Oklahoma children already use tobacco products. Each day, the equivalent of another classroom gets hooked on the deadly product.
Youth are bombarded everyday by the tobacco industry. Each year the tobacco industry spends $213 million advertising its deadly product in Oklahoma. Published research studies have found that youth are 3x more sensitive to tobacco advertising than adults. When asked what age they were targeting, an R.J. Reynolds representative replied, “They got lips. We want them.” Emily Tull, SWAT youth, responds to that remark with, “We aren’t taking it anymore! We are taking a stand against tobacco and want it out of our lives.”
SWAT is a statewide movement funded by the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust in partnership with Jackson County Community Health Action Team and Jackson County Health Department.
Additional Points of Interest
* 15% of all 9th-12th graders who smoke usually buy their cigarettes directly from a store.
* Almost 90% of tobacco users start using tobacco before the age of 18.
* The tobacco industry uses flavoring to make their products look and taste more like candy.
Research sites: stopswithme.com; cdc.gov; tobaccofreekids.org.