Fayette County

Lexington group launches campaign against cigarette-butt litter

Cigarette butts, like these along East Maxwell Street, are the focus of a litter-prevention program that will make use of a $5,000 grant.
Cigarette butts, like these along East Maxwell Street, are the focus of a litter-prevention program that will make use of a $5,000 grant.

The dangers of cigarette smoke are no secret.

But cigarettes also are a problem after they've been smoked, Lexington Environmental Quality Commissioner Cheryl Taylor said Tuesday.

Taylor and the Keep Lexington Beautiful Commission have joined with Keep America Beautiful to launch a campaign against cigarette-butt litter.

"We found that cigarette litter is pervasive. It's everywhere," Taylor said. "We think it's because people just don't think about it."

According to Keep America Beautiful's Web site, cigarette butts are the most littered item in the United States.

That statistic, coupled with the unsightliness of cigarette butts, led the Keep Lexington Beautiful Commission to the idea of an anti-litter campaign, which began to take shape about two years ago, Taylor said.

The Lexington commission started by taking surveys of specific areas in Lexington, where members picked up cigarette butts and counted them.

They'll do the same once the campaign is over in the hopes of finding fewer cigarette butts than before. Environmental Quality spokesman Mark York said the campaign will start on July 1 and run until mid-August.

The Keep Lexington Beautiful Commission was accepted into Keep America Beautiful and received a $5,000 grant, which will be used to buy trash receptacles for targeted areas. As part of the campaign, Keep America Beautiful donated 1,000 pocket ashtrays and hundreds of automobile ashtrays to the local commission to give out at public appearances.

"Litter has been an issue and something that's been discussed by a lot of people for a long time," she said. "But there was never an agency that addressed it. Everybody hated litter, but nobody knew what to do about it."

Taylor said other cities have had positive results from similar campaigns.

She said part of a successful push in Oklahoma City, Okla., was having an image that reminded people about the dangers of litter.

Lexington will have its own image in the form of a "cigarette fairy," played by local theater actress Carly Crawford, 24. She'll appear in television advertisements.

"We're hoping that when they're about to throw their cigarette on the ground, an image of Carly will pop in their head and remind them not to," Taylor said.

Taylor said the campaign isn't limited to focusing on cigarette butts. It addresses litter in general.

She said the goal is to educate people and help them to break the habit of throwing butts on the ground.

"Most people are reasonable," she said. "Once they stop to think about it, they want to do the right thing."