Taking Action: answers on hospital cigarette litter quandary

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Huntsville Hospital has been a tobacco-free campus since February 2013. A viewer emailed us with a concern, but this time it wasn't about the smoke - rather the litter 'off-campus' smokers are leaving behind.

Alisha Hawkins says Sunday she was shocked at the amount of cigarette butts strewn all over the place just outside hospital property on the city right-of-way.

Hawkins says she thinks it horrible that the hospital is trying to do something healthy for the community, but the result is a filthy city sidewalk.

So we decided to take action and look into her concern.

When we strolled along Gallatin Street in front of the hospital Thursday we saw the occasional tossed cigarette - but not at all at the level we expected. After all, this city sidewalk has become the unofficial smoker's post since the campus snuffed out smoking more than a year ago.

We learned the hospital's environmental service workers are now dealing with the aftermath of a healthier hospital campus.

"The city sidewalks are not our property but we do clean it up around the area where smokers seem to congregate around our facility - probably 3 or 4 times a week," says hospital spokesman Burr Ingram.

It's not the hospital's responsibility of course, but they do it anyway.

"There a $30,000 fence over there to basically keep people from smoking on our customers' cars - so we don't know how much more we can invest," Ingram explains. "It really would behoove the city to address this issue even more so than us."

Ingram suggests the city adopt an ordinance than would ban smoking with 500 feet of any hospital campus.

"That would be something we would encourage the viewers to take hold of and to ask their city council to support something like that."

We contacted Joy McKee, the city's director of Operation Green Team, who says while they are not in the business of telling people they can or can't smoke - they do have a plan.

McKee says new signage around the city bus stop on the corner of Gallatin and Sivley will soon read, "Cigarette Butts Are Litter, Too." The city also plans to provide a cigarette receptacle. McKee says she hopes education will about proper disposal will make a difference.

"It takes a community-wide effort to address it fully," Ingram finishes.

Cigarette butts don't biodegrade for up top 15 years. Joy McKee with Operation Green Team says the new 'friendly reminder' signage to encourage smokers to properly dispose of cigarettes should be up as early as Friday.


1 Comment

  • ariel

    I think the bigger issue is why won’t cigarette butts biodegrade aren’t they just supposed to be paper and cotton?? I understand it’s “littering” but if they were made with natural materials cause well tobacco is natural, this would never be a problem. It’s an extremely easy fix on the tobacco companies part but let’s not even get started on what else THEY put in there

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