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Butt littering campaigns – good for the environment but what about us?

May 3, 2006

Butt Littering TrustOur president has just written to the Butt Littering Trust.

The Butt Littering Trust is a national body linked to Keep Australia Beautiful (and funded by British American Tobacco Australia). It has a strong environmental focus. But arguably its work is making it easier for smokers to do their thing and harm our many members who are reactive to cigarette smoke.

Peter Cahalan wrote to the Trust after receiving its latest e-bulletin:

Butt Littering Trust Bulletin: Issue 8, April 2006

The bulletin contained an article on the Marrickville Council (NSW)’s Trust-funded “No Butts in Newtown” campaign, designed to distribute ashtrays, educate people face-to-face, supply education materials, and install wall-mounted ashtrays in strategic locations.

Here is Peter’s email to Shauna Coffey, the Trust’s Executive Officer:

Hi Shauna

I’ve just got your latest e-newsletter and note in it references to getting disposal units ‘strategically’ placed in busy retail areas etc.

I come at this from the perspective of an advocate for people who are chemically sensitive as a result of suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. Many people with ME/CFS – over half – suffer serious reactivities to cigarette smoke as a particularly toxic chemical which happens to be particularly in your face because smokers cart it (unlike many other toxic chemicals) right into the heart of social, commercial, educational and other gathering places.

So I tend to observe how smokers gather where cigarette disposal units are to be found. Where the unit is, so the smoker goes – no matter what the signage nearby or the regulations say. So on health grounds I’m an advocate for minimising, not maximising, the number of bins. Reducing the Pavlovian triggers for smokers to light up should be a priority – not making it more convenient for them. And so I’m concerned that your Trust is in fact making things worse for people with chronic health problems and not better.

Given that you will probably continue your efforts to increase the number of disposal units, could I ask that you investigate and draw up guidelines for their placement, if you haven’t already done so? I think of the number of units around central Adelaide placed at the entrance ways to arcades and ingress/egress points for stores. The smoke just pours well into some of the arcades and store areas – permeating for tens of metres and thus creating unsafe zones inside as well as making it really hard for smoke-reactive people to get in and out. If units are to be placed anywhere, they should be placed as far away from entrances as possible.

Could I ask if the Butt Littering Trust has developed guidelines on the placement of units which might help to ameliorate the Trust’s well-intentioned but ill-advised efforts to create better amenities for smokers?

Peter Cahalan
President, ME/CFS Australia (SA) Inc

We’ll post the Trust’s response when it comes in.


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