Yellowknife targets cigarette litter

Yellowknife health officials are giving "ash bags" to smokers to store their cigarette butts and reduce the number of butts that litter streets and sidewalks.

Yellowknife health officials are giving away special "ash bags" for smokers to store their cigarette butts in and reduce the number of cigarette butts that litter streets and sidewalks.

About 3,500 bright green bags are being handed out in coffee shops, retail stores and municipal buildings across the N.W.T. capital as part of the Bin the Butts campaign spearheaded by the City of Yellowknife and the Yellowknife Health and Social Services Authority.

"It looks like a little plastic envelope that's padded, and on the inside is a shiny foil with a snap at the top," explained Jo Russell, the health authority's health promotion co-ordinator.

The reusable bags can store used cigarette butts until they have cooled off and can be properly disposed of in the garbage.

Toxic cigarette butts

Russell said cigarette butts that are discarded on the ground are not only hazardous to one's health — they can spread disease if other people pick them up and smoke them — they're also bad for the environment, and not just because they can spark outdoor fires.

"The toxins that get trapped in the cigarette filter, when you toss your butt, those toxins leach down into the earth, so that gets into our groundwater," she said.

As well, Russell said animals and even children could eat cigarette butts from the ground.

Some smokers surveyed in downtown Yellowknife expressed skepticism about the new bags, but others were enthusiastic.

"It seems pretty small and you can fit it in your pocket, so yeah, I think it would be good," said Richard Corkal, who grabbed an ash bag at a local coffee shop.

Pam Norwegian said she doesn't want to toss cigarette butts outside while riding around on the Ingraham Trail outside Yellowknife.

"Driving along that way, I don't like using my ashtray either and I don't feel comfortable throwing it out the window because of forest fires and stuff, so that's a really good idea," she said.

"I think they should give them out everywhere."