While some of us were putting up our Christmas tree on December 8, the Olean High School Reality Check group put up trees of their own at the Olean Mall.  In place of fresh pine needles and twinkling lights, however, the student advocate group’s tree displays two distinct kinds of trees – some dying and some alive —  to stir interest in a tobacco-free parks policy.


The display, designed to communicate the deadly impact of cigarette butt waste to our environment, is a call for community members to encourage city leaders to designate a tobacco-free policy for Olean City parks. Post-it notes, hanging from the trees in the form of leaves,  reveal compelling facts and messages that demonstrate why tobacco-free parks will benefit both the environment and quality of life in the city.

According to the Americans for Non-Smokers’ Rights (ANR), cigarette butts are the most commonly discarded piece of waste worldwide. It is estimated that 1.69 BILLION pounds of butts, which contain all the carcinogen chemicals, pesticides and nicotine that make tobacco use the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, wind up as toxic trash each year, creating an enormous health and economic burden in addition to the deadly environmental impact.15055723_1843928035851096_7083019806591934502_n

To demonstrate the toxic soup produced when cigarette butts are inexcusably dumped in the environment, the tree display also features a jar full of cigarette butts soaked in water. The Olean High School Reality Check teens recently collected these butts at Olean’s Oak Hill Park as part of a Great American Smokeout cleanup event in November.