Smoking danger doesn't end with the butt


Reporter - Briana Conner
Photographer - David Dycus

PADUCAH, Ky. - They're more than just an eye sore. Cigarette butts clustered on the sides of local streets could be contaminating the ground soil and potentially drinking water with poisons like arsenic and lead and cancer-causing chemicals like formaldehyde. Many do not realize that the dangers associated with smoking don't end once the cigarette has been snuffed out.

It's not just the big bags and cups Paducah Civic Beautification Board Member Henry Barbour is worried about. It's the smaller pieces of litter that are becoming the butt of a big problem. He said, "The filters don't decompose." Used cigarette filters peeking out between gravel and grass are also full of toxins left over from the burning tobacco.
That's a substance American Cancer Society Representative Mary Huff says can lead to serious health problems. She said, "We know through research that tobacco is actually the leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. and across the world." 

In Paducah, the poison left in cigarette butts could allow that cancer to creep into the water supply. "It is always a concern when you have toxins of any kind going into our soil, especially as all of our drains in our streets drain to the river," said Barbour.

For Huff, the solution is as simple as prevention. She said, "The way to significantly reduce the risk is by reducing smoking and reducing that exposure." If you ask Barbour, it's as simple as opening up your eyes. "Look at what we have here. It's a beautiful city. Let's keep it that way," he said.

Paducah's beautification board also works to strategically place trash cans in areas where people can quickly easily find them. So, there's no excuse to throw cigarette butts or other trash on the ground.