Cigarette butts are one of the most littered items worldwide, but several Pratt groups joined forces to "Kick Butts" and raise awareness of where smoking is and is not allowed.
It was an eye-opening experience for adults and youth who participated in the Pratt Prevention Partnership's Kick-Butts day last month. It was also a learning experience about a problem that mostly goes unnoticed.
"We are a smoke-free campus," said Andi Dean, Pratt Regional Medical Center Communities Relations Manager. "I heard so many people say they had no idea there were so many cigarette butts around us every day, under our feet, just about everywhere we go."
PRMC employees were given an hour on-the-clock during the day March 21 to go outside and walk around the hospital campus and nearby areas to pick up cigarette butts.
"It was amazing how many chose to participate," Dean said. "Many of us chose to walk to Sixth Street Park to get our hour in and there were butts everywhere for us to pick up."
Derese McAbee, Teen Zone instructor at Pratt Public Library, said the youth who participated from the library and the Teen Center, also found it to be an eye-opening experience.
"It was a good way to get the kids off the computers and outside for awhile," McAbee said. "I heard them saying, 'Man, there's a lot out here.'"
McAbee and several groups of Pratt youth picked up cigarette butts around Blythe Family Fitness, the Barron Theatre, and the blocks in between those establishments, the library and the Teen Center.
"They noticed that the cigarette butts were often multiples in each area," McAbee said. "They also found a lot of trash in the areas we covered, so we turned it into a trash pickup project too."
After the youth groups finished their pickup work, McAbee and Stephanie Reichenberger from the Teen Center took up the task of counting baggies full of butts.
"They smelled bad and very dirty," McAbee said. "We collected 1,470 butts just in the one afternoon of pick-up that we did."
The Pratt Recycling Center had been designated as the collection point for the several different groups that joined in the Kick Butts project. A grand total of butts picked up was never established, but a box estimated to weigh about 5 lbs. was taken to the landfill with the collection. Cigarette butts are not biodegradable and they are considered the most littered item in the world.
Dean said the goal of the Kick Butts event in Pratt was to raise awareness of cigarette smoking and the problems it leaves behind.
"As a mom with three kids it just drivers me nuts when I take them to Lemon Park and someone is sitting right there on the bench at the playground smoking," she said. "It's bad for us all."
Pratt Prevention Partnership, a group made up of city leadership representatives, hoped to follow up with the Kick Butts event by establishing non-smoking areas specifically around playgrounds in city limits.
"The Kansas Department of Health and Environment will provide us with free, nice sturdy no-smoking signs if we have a policy or ordinance in place that bans smoking," Dean said. "Other places, like Reno County, has banned smoking in all parks and playgrounds, I just want to start with a win here and keep the smoking and cigarettes away from where our children are playing."
The Pratt County Commission passed an ordinance against smoking in parks and playgrounds. The Pratt City Commission is studying the issue, comparing policy to ordinance and figuring enforcement costs.
"When we started this we just wanted to do something that would make an impact," Dean said. "It turned out to be an eye-opening experience for a lot of people."
Dean said the Pratt Prevention Partnership is currently the only organization in the area actively working to promote prevention of harmful addictions. Cigarette smoking is considered an addiction to nicotine and a primary cause of lung disease and cancer.