LIMA — A thoughtless flick, and the same toxins that were just filling up a smoker’s lungs are now littered on the ground. It doesn’t take long for one cigarette butt to turn into thousands, millions, contaminating soil and eventually the water supply.
Demonstrating their numerous nature, youth and adult volunteers from Trinity United Methodist Church and St. Mark United Methodist Church picked up butts at Robb Park Friday. The project of Activate Allen County will be used to quantify just how much tobacco product litter can be produced, said Nancy Bonifas, a registered nurse and certified tobacco treatment specialist and Tobacco Free Living Team leader with Activate Allen County.
“This isn’t just to pick up litter,” Bonifas told the youth getting ready with gloved hands and zippered sandwich bags. “It’s quantifying this. In the next year, the Allen County Tobacco Free Coalition will petition Lima City Council to make the city parks smoke-free. You’re part of a much bigger project.”
Bonifas had with her more than 5 pounds of tobacco product litter she collected in an hour at Faurot Park.
“This is really the last tolerated form of littering,” Bonifas said. “Just this morning, someone driving in front of me flicked a cigarette out the window.”
Activate Allen County has selected health indicators higher than national and state averages for the region to improve. Nationally, 18 percent of people smoke. In Ohio, the number is 20 percent and in Allen County, 22 percent of the population smokes. The group is also focused on active living and healthier eating.
Bonifas, who works at The Heart Center at St. Rita’s Medical Center, has been a tobacco treatment specialist since 2008. She took the opportunity after working with so many patients suffering from heart and lung problems, and having the sense that just telling someone to quit smoking did little good.
The addiction is complex and requires real, evidence-based treatment, she said.
Bonifas instructed the youth to concentrate around the playground and shelter house.
“Pick up anything you see: butts, packaging, wrappers,” Bonifas said.
It didn’t take long and the teens had full bags.