It’s estimated that 1.69 billion pounds of cigarette butts end up as toxic trash each year and they are not biodegradable. As an example of the impact tobacco has on our environment, Monforton School Student Council and Leadership team cleaned up a half gallon of cigarette butts in Bozeman’s Kirk Park to raise awareness of the extent of the problem in our community.

Cigarette filters are not biodegradable and are the most frequently collected item found during litter clean-ups. Although ultraviolet light will break down filters over time, the toxins in the filter leach chemicals into the water and soil.

The field trip was also an end-of-year celebration for work the students have accomplished over the past few months. From creating a radio ad to having a presence at the rural school dance, the group hoped to influence local government agencies to consider tobacco-free parks. As a result, government organizations such as Bozeman Parks and Recreation and the Gallatin City-County Health Department are working this summer to observe and audit cigarette litter in the parks, gather public input, and use this information to educate the community about the importance of smoke free parks.

Why Tobacco-Free Parks?

Children are strongly influenced by what they see as “normal” behavior. Tobacco-free parks send the message that tobacco is unsafe and that nonsmokers have the right to protection from secondhand smoke.

The Surgeon General has determined there is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure. Being within a few feet of a burning cigarette outdoors can produce levels comparable to indoor environments. Tobacco free parks also create a safe space for those living with or recovering from chronic diseases such as asthma, cancer and COPD, as well as support people who are trying to quit using tobacco.

Kudos to the Monforton students who are actively working to create a healthier community.