New Legacy campaign and PSAs on toxic cigarette litter
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Posted by: Natalia Gromov
Legacy and the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics launched a bilingual
public service announcement campaign titled "Rethink Butts” to raise awareness
and mobilize action regarding the harmful environmental impact of cigarette
butt litter. You can view and listen to the PSAs (radio and TV) at www.rethinkbutts.org.
release on the campaign can be found at: http://www.legacyforhealth.org/newsroom/press-releases/billions-of-pieces-of-toxic-trash-are-leaching-deadly-chemicals.
shed light on toxic waste created by cigarette litter and urge Americans to
reconsider and stop cigarette butt litter in observance of Earth Day later this
month. The campaign aims to encourage the general public to rethink the act of
littering tobacco trash while simultaneously serving as an educational resource
on ways to address the issue. The campaign and PSAs were featured in a New York
Times story today: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/09/business/media/an-ad-campaign-fights-cigarette-butts-as-toxic-waste.html.
of the campaign, Legacy will distribute the PSAs to radio and television
stations nationwide as well as post them on social media channels and conduct
earned media outreach on the topic.
asking for assistance in in spreading the message during the month of April and
have developed a short menu of ideas for your involvement:
- Download and share the PSA content via your social media and the
web during Earth Month in April and throughout the year. The PSAs will be
available for download/share on the Legacy Facebook (Facebook/Legacy) page as
well as online at RethinkButts.org. Follow Legacy on Twitter (@LegacyforHealth)
for content related to this issue.
- Join a twitter chat about the issue on April 22nd(Earth
Day), from 2-3:30 ET via Twitter. The #rethinkbutts will be used at this chat
and throughout the month for news and information about the campaign.
- Download the toolkit with ideas from RethinkButts.org – post this
URL, include information in an e-newsletter story, host a clean-up, there are
endless ways to help stop toxic litter!
A Campaign Fights the Cigarette Butt, a Ubiquitous Pollutant
By ANDREW ADAM NEWMAN
Published: April 8, 2013
LIKE that of the American Lung Association, much of the work of
Legacy, a 14-year-old antismoking organization, is aimed at exposing the health
risks of cigarettes. Legacy’s Truth campaign, for example, tries to dissuade
youths from picking up the habit, while its Ex program helps adults quit.
Now Legacy is introducing a public service campaign that attacks
cigarettes on another front: as litter.
A new commercial opens with what appears to be the rusted hull of
a beached tanker. Brown and green goo gurgle from its pipes.
"Toxic chemicals and carcinogens are leaking into the
environment,” says a voice-over. "It’s happening right where we live, work and
The camera pans along the side of the object until it reaches a
band of white, and a charred edge, and then rises above it. What had seemed to
be a tanker turns out to be a single cigarette butt scattered among several in
a puddle near a sewer grate.
"Cigarette butts are toxic waste,” the voice-over continues.
"Let’s stop the toxic litter.”
The campaign is a joint effort between Legacy and Leave No Trace
Center for Outdoor Ethics, which advocates for environmental stewardship on
The commercial is by the Butler Bros, a branding and production
company in Austin, Tex., with animation by the Los Angeles office of Psyop.
Distribution of the commercial, which as a public service commercial relies on
donated airtime from television networks and individual stations, is by the
The campaign, which also includes a Spanish version of the
commercial, introduces a new Web site, RethinkButts.org, and is timed to begin
in advance of Earth Day, April 22.
"We have to change societal norms in terms of littered cigarette
butts,” said Cheryl G. Healton, the chief executive of Legacy, which is based
in Washington, and was created by the 1998 master settlement agreement between
states and the tobacco industry. "I see people throwing cigarette butts out
their car windows all the time, but I don’t see people throwing cans out their
Ms. Healton said that her group had been fighting cigarette litter
for about three years, and she said she saw it as akin to campaigns against
"Both secondhand smoke and butts that go into the ground and
waterways make smoking a pretty dangerous addiction for our environment,” Ms.
Smokers litter cigarette butts rather than disposing of them
properly 65 percent of the time, making it the most frequently littered item,
according to observational data from Keep America Beautiful. The group also
found that cigarette butts made up 38 percent of all roadside litter.
And more than 1.03 million cigarette butts were removed from
American beaches in 2011 as part of the annual international coastal cleanup by
the Ocean Conservancy, making it the most commonly littered item and
representing 28 percent of all debris collected.
Thomas E. Novotny, a professor of global health at San Diego State
University, said that while no direct link had been demonstrated between
littered cigarette butts and human health, the butts leach measurable amounts
of cadmium, arsenic, lead and nicotine.
A single cigarette butt in a liter of water containing minnows is
toxic enough to kill half of the fish within 96 hours, a standard toxicity
test, according to an experiment featured in an article published in the journal
Tobacco Control that Professor Novotny helped write.
"We can’t show that there’s actually human harm but we should look
at it as a potential harm and prevent it from contaminating the environment,”
said Professor Novotny.
The belief among some smokers that cigarettes are biodegradable is
incorrect, said Professor Novotny, noting that most filters in cigarettes
contain cellulose acetate, a plastic substance.
Marty Butler, director of creativity at Butler Bros, said his team
had considered approaches that would highlight that cigarette butts were the
most commonly littered item.
"But what rose to the top instead was the fact that the butts
contain chemicals that produce poisons, heavy metals, pesticides, awful stuff
like that,” Mr. Butler said.
The scale-shifting concept — what appears to be a single,
continuous shot of a monstrous industrial polluter turns out to actually be a
single cigarette butt — was straightforward on storyboards, but mind-boggling
to execute digitally.
"The point of view that we established was as if a helicopter was
flying along a cigarette butt” and then ascended to about six feet above it,
Mr. Butler said.
For Psyop, which usually makes appetizing animated content for
brands like Pepsi and Planter’s, the subject matter was decidedly darker, said
David Chontos, a creative director at Psyop.
"We very rarely in advertising get an opportunity to participate
in something like this,” said Mr. Chontos. "A soft-drink company would not ask
us to make a toxic-waste factory.”
While the spot renders cigarette butts as disgusting, it does not
explicitly tell viewers to stop littering, an approach that appeals to Mr.
Chontos, who is a smoker.
"I don’t want people to yell at me and tell me what to do, and
would rather be provided with the information and make the decision myself,”
said Mr. Chontos, who confessed that until recently he had discarded his butts
on the ground.
"But I haven’t thrown a cigarette on the ground since I started
working on this spot, which I think is the whole point,” Mr. Chontos said.
When Professor Novotny sees someone on his university campus throw
out a cigarette butt, he does not hesitate to pick it up, hand it back and
chide the smoker about the environmental impact.
"It helps,” Professor Novotny explained in an e-mail message, "to
be a gray-haired professor type.”Source: Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids