Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Smoke-free college campuses: no ifs, ands or toxic butts
  1. Michael Sawdey1,
  2. Ryan P Lindsay2,
  3. Thomas E Novotny1
  1. 1Graduate School of Public Health, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, USA
  2. 2San Diego State University/University of California San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Global Health, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Ryan Lindsay, San Diego State University, Hardy Tower 119, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, CA 92182-4162, USA; ryanlindsay{at}


Objective To better estimate the burden of toxic cigarette butt waste and create awareness of the hazardous nature of cigarette butts on two large university campuses in San Diego by organizing and conducting student cigarette butt clean-up activities.

Methods Two separate campus-wide clean-ups were conducted by student volunteers at San Diego State University (SDSU) and at University of California San Diego (UCSD) between April and July 2010.

Results In 1 h, 63 volunteers at SDSU collected 23 885 butts; 6525 cigarette butts were collected in 1 h by 17 volunteers at UCSD. The average number of cigarette butts picked up per individual was 379.1 at SDSU and 383.8 at UCSD (range 25–1030 per volunteer).

Conclusions The amount of cigarette waste on college campuses nationally may be quite substantial given the many thousands of cigarette butts gathered at each of the San Diego institutions. In just 10 s on average a volunteer could locate, walk to, pick up and put a cigarette butt in the collection bag and then begin looking for another discarded butt, indicating the saturation of cigarette butts on campus. Smoke-free policies on campus could have far-reaching effects not only in reducing smoking behaviour on campus and ground clean-up costs, but also on the environment. Campus cigarette waste clean-ups can be utilized to call attention to the issue of cigarette butt waste in the environment.

  • Environment
  • Public policy
  • cardiovascular risk management
  • clinical trials

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See: and

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Funding RL is supported by a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) training grant, no. T32DA023356.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.