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Ohio State litter cleanup gathers more than 4,800 cigarette butts

Former OSU football player Eddie George got together with volunteers before OSU’s cigarette butt and litter cleanup initiative at 8th and Michigan avenues Sept. 10. Credit: Sally Xia / Lantern photographer

Former OSU football player Eddie George got together with volunteers before OSU’s cigarette butt and litter cleanup initiative at 8th and Michigan avenues Sept. 10.
Credit: Sally Xia / Lantern photographer

It took former Ohio State running back Eddie George four years to amass nearly 3,700 yards as a Buckeye.

It took George and volunteers two hours to collect more than 4,800 cigarette butts, according to Kristin Sutton, an organizer of a campus cleanup event.

George, assistant vice president for Business Advancement, joined OSU student and staff volunteers to help pick up litter and cigarette butts near the Wexner Medical Center Tuesday.

The event was part of the United Way of Central Ohio’s Community Care Day, as well as promoted OSU’s switch to a tobacco-free campus.

The OSU Board of Trustees approved a revision of OSU’s smoke-free policy in April, banning the use of all tobacco products on campus. Though the ban was set to go into effect Aug. 1, enforcement has been delayed until 2014.

OSU partnered with Keep Columbus Beautiful, a group dedicated to education about environmental issues and recycling of litter, said Sherri Palmer, program manager of Keep Columbus Beautiful.

Keep Columbus Beautiful also loans out equipment to help volunteers collect litter and helps to estimate the number of cigarette butts that are collected before properly recycling them, Palmer said.

Volunteers collected approximately 4,863 cigarette butts during the two hours of the volunteer event, according to Sutton.

Peter Shields, deputy director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center, helped organize the cleanup and said he was not surprised at the number of butts collected in the Medical Center area, which has been designated as tobacco-free since 2006.

“Unfortunately nicotine addiction and smoking is a very powerful thing, and there are people that just can’t or won’t quit,” Shields said. “They are doing what they can to comply with policy, or in some cases break the policy. We know that people won’t comply with the policy, and that is unfortunate, but that’s true in every segment of society.”

Shields said, though, he believes the number of butts collected could have been higher without the policy in place.

“I think that is important to also realize that just because we have this many cigarette butts doesn’t mean that the policy is not working,” Shields said. “The question that someone would have to ask is how much more would there be if we didn’t have this type of policy.”

The university is looking to continue this type of event in the future in order to see if the policy is helping people to quit or just change smoking locations, Shields said.

“It may be in the surrounding communities, the number of cigarette butts will go up, and that may tell us that people are smoking less on the OSU campus,” Shields said. “Ultimately, for those people that just move off campus, that is not what our intent is; our intent is to help people quit.”

George said he believes that while this event will help people see the commitment of the university to go tobacco-free, it will not solve all of the issues of the transition.

“This is just one event, one intention to really put out there for people to see and do the work of picking it up and actually physically doing the work itself to really make it a clean environment,” George said.

He added that it’s all about action.

“You can’t just talk about it, you actually have to go out there and do it,” George said. “That’s what today is all about, It’s not going to solve it all in one day but it’s showing that we are committed to making this the healthiest campus in America.”

Leslie Jarvis, a fifth-year in health sciences, volunteered last week to help with the cleanup. Jarvis said she didn’t think the tobacco-ban at the Medical Center influenced the number of butts collected.

“I don’t think people care (about the ban)… I think this event kind of speaks out to the community,” Jarvis said. “If people are helping to pick it up, then maybe people they will feel more motivated not to smoke on OSU campus. I think this will try to build a better future for Columbus.”

Luke Russell, senior content manager for the Wexner Medical Center, was one of the Medical Center employees who volunteered last week.

Russell said he thinks this event should be done again later in the year to reinforce the smoking ban on campus.

“It’s something that we (Wexner Medical Center workers) support just because we work in health care, and we see the damage that tobacco does to people’s lives … it’s a difficult thing to initiate, these tobacco policies,” Russell said. “You just have to keep reinforcing it, keep explaining to the public why it is important, and be persistent. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

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