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Protecting Finger Lakes from Cigarette Pollution: What’s Being Done

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  • Digital Team 

Cigarettes are the most littered item in the world, posing a threat to the environment. Cigarette filters don’t biodegrade well, and the toxic chemicals they contain can leak into waterways and soil. This is especially precarious considering that the Seneca Meadows landfill receives 6000 tons of garbage every day, and some of the pollution from there affects Finger Lakes, threatening the ecosystem of this freshwater landscape and those who depend on it for water. Cigarettes can pose a major risk for impacting the local environment. However, Finger Lakes and the state of New York have been cracking down on cigarettes and other smoking products, not just for the sake of public health but to preserve the environment and avoid toxic chemicals and harmful smoke from polluting the area. Here’s what’s being done and how residents can contribute:

Addressing cigarette pollution in Finger Lakes

More smoke-free areas

Finger Lakes is increasing its smoke-free areas, preventing the spread of cigarette pollution. In 2023, a few Finger Lakes wineries and a vineyard became smoke-free properties, banning cigarettes, vapes, and other tobacco use in parking lots, patios, decks, and all outdoor spaces. Smoke-free environments remove the threat of secondhand smoke and cigarette butt pollution, allowing employees and guests to stay protected and safe while maintaining a pristine environment. In addition to the ban on smoking in workplaces and public spaces, this helps reduce the number of cigarettes smoked and disposed of in Finger Lakes.

Higher taxes

Cigarettes and other smoke and tobacco products are facing stricter restrictions. In 2023, New York hiked up the cigarette tax from $4.35 to $5.35 per pack of 20 cigarettes. By increasing the prices, it’s expected that tobacco consumption will decrease by 4% across the state, which can help reduce cigarette pollution in the Finger Lakes region. The state also established a 20% tax on vaping products and required vapor products to file registration to be able to sell these products. 

Tighter bans and policies

New York is also targeting e-cigarettes in an attempt to veer younger consumers from purchasing and using them. Vapes also cause significant pollution, as disposing of them improperly can pollute the ecosystem with heavy metals, which leach into the lakes. E-cigarette waste also doesn’t break down even in severe conditions, making it a pervasive form of litter. By tightening bans and enforcing more comprehensive policies, Finger Lakes can benefit from a cleaner and more smoke-free environment. Other state laws prohibited the sale of tobacco and vapor products in pharmacies and ended price discounts. 

How residents can help

Use smokeless alternatives

Residents in the Finger Lakes region who smoke can reduce harmful cigarette waste by opting for smokeless alternatives. Products like nicotine pouches have been increasing in popularity since they’re smoke and tobacco-free, reducing threats to the environment. While they are available in convenience stores, tobacconists, gas stations, and more, online channels have made buying nicotine pouches in New York easier and more accessible to adults 21 and older due to the wide variety of brands, strengths, and flavors available. You can get a refreshing taste like the VELO Mint in 4mg or the Lucy Espresso 8mg for something more intense, and receive your purchase in one to five days to enjoy a more pleasant nicotine experience without cigarettes.

Other products you can use instead of cigarettes are nicotine replacement therapy products (NRTs). They are also smoke and tobacco-free but are also approved to help you with quitting smoking. NRTs include patches, gum, lozenges, sprays, inhalers and more. Nicotine lozenges are a good option for a more waste-free experience. Since they dissolve in the mouth like regular lozenges and don’t require disposal, they can help reduce pollution and waste in the Finger Lakes area. Brands like Nicorette offer nicotine lozenges and gum in various flavors and strengths. 

Community efforts 

Finger Lakes region residents can also participate in community efforts to advocate for and create a smoke-free environment. Organized clean-ups can help remove any cigarette butts littered outside to prevent them from polluting the area. Making it a community effort can encourage more people to join, raise more awareness of the environmental impact smoking causes, and reduce the amount of cigarette litter in the region to avoid more harm to Finger Lakes. 

You can also support policies that can help manage cigarette waste and smoke exposure. Advocate for the establishment of designated cigarette butt disposal bins in public areas or the creation of designated smoking zones that won’t bother other residents and non-smokers. Educational campaigns on the environmental impact of smoking can also allow people to learn about the cost of cigarettes and how it can harm Finger Lakes and those who live in the region.

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