An estimated 20 billion cigarettes are smoked annually in Australia, with seven billion cigarette butts discarded as litter. With the current rise in vaping rates, there is also concern for the rise in waste with these single-use plastic products.
To mark World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) on 31 May, Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) and Koori Quitline are partnering to raise awareness of the threat tobacco products pose to our environment and to encourage care for Country as one more reason to quit.
In collaboration with Bathurst Local Aboriginal Lands Council, WNSWLHD and Koori Quitline hosted a free event on 30 May to support the healing of Country with a native Hibiscus planting ceremony, weaving workshop and educational sessions about staying smoke free during pregnancy and beyond.
“Caring for Country is very important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and in honour of World No Tobacco Day, we are holding a planting ceremony to celebrate new life and hope for the future,” Vanessa Kendall, Koori Quitline Counsellor, said.
“The native Hibiscus plant itself recognises the strength of the Stolen Generations, and symbolises compassion and spiritual healing during National Sorry Day and Reconciliation Week this week”.
The volume of discarded cigarette butts has not decreased in line with retail sales of cigarettes dropping from 16.2 billion in 2015 to 10.8 billion in 2020. The Keep Australia Beautiful Litter Index has shown that cigarette butts are the main portion of litter in NSW, representing almost half of all littered items.
“There is the danger of toxins and chemicals from discarded cigarette butts leaking into the environment. These leaks can pollute drinking water and soils where we grow food. Thoughtless littering can harm our vulnerable, including children and animals, who rely on us to keep them safe,” Ms Kendall said.
“To be able to breathe on Country, World No Tobacco Day calls on people who smoke or vape to commit to quit in 2022. We also encourage everyone to use the hashtags #BreatheOnCountry and #WNTD2022 to help raise awareness. Contact the Quitline for a free, culturally safe yarn to support your personal quit journey.”