Eunice Cho, Tobacco Control Resource Program
In April 2021, members of the San Diego County Tobacco Control Coalition, including community organizations CASA , SAY San Diego, and Vista Community Clinic, partnered with the Surfrider Foundation for toxic tobacco waste cleanups at state parks and beaches, including Carlsbad, Encinitas, Silver Strand, and Old Town. Despite the fact that smoking is prohibited at State parks and beaches, 265 pieces of tobacco product waste were collected during the cleanup, where cigarette butts were the most often discovered among the waste collected.
According to the California Department of Public Health, cigarette butts are the number one item found on beaches and roadsides and are a major source of litter at parks. Cigarette butts are toxic and spread nicotine, deadly metals, and other chemicals into oceans, beaches, and waterways. In recent years, the issue of tobacco product waste has worsened with the increased popularity of e-cigarettes. E-cigarette and e-liquid waste are hazardous, as they increase more single-use plastics and leach toxic chemicals into the environment.
“During our beach cleanups, cigarette butts are the number one items we recover from our beaches, locally and internationally,” said Mark O’Connor, a lead volunteer for the Surfrider Foundation’s Rise Above Plastics Committee. “It is Surfrider’s goal that a public smoking ban would reduce the number of cigarette butts that we pick up off the beach and improve the environment.”
This unique partnership with Surfrider Foundation, who responds to local threats to 70+ miles of San Diego County coastline, aims to tackle the issue of keeping beaches and natural shorelines clean through a collective effort.
With the coordination and collaboration of several groups in the region, the San Diego County Tobacco Control Coalition hopes to improve and protect the health of all San Diegans. The coalition is composed of public health groups, non-profit organizations, and County of San Diego Tobacco Control Resource Program (TCRP) staff.
For more information about the San Diego County Tobacco Control Coalition, contact Irene.Linayao-Putman@sdcounty.ca.gov or to learn about volunteer opportunities with the Surfrider Foundation, visit https://sandiego.surfrider.org/volunteer/.