Did you happen to notice the blue flags at Pearson and Watkins parks in Red Oak on Monday, and wonder what they were for?

The Red Oak High School Impact Street Team, with the assistance of REACH Council and Drug Prevention Resources, participated in a Tobacco Free Kids Awareness Day event known as “Kick Butts Day."

The purpose of the activity is to bring awareness to how often cigarette butts are littered in our community parks. The Street Team visited both Watkins and Pearson parks to pick up cigarette butts and replace each butt with an awareness day blue flag to give a visual of this problem to members of the community.

The Street Team asks that if you do choose to smoke, please discard your butts in an environmentally safe way.

According to Keep America Beautiful (KAB), Americans are smoking fewer cigarettes than ever before, yet cigarette butts continue to be the most commonly littered item in the United States and around the world today.

Did you know most cigarette filters, the part that looks like white cotton, is a form of plastic called cellulose acetate. By itself, cellulose acetate is very slow to degrade in our environment. Depending on the conditions of the area the cigarette butt is discarded in, it can take 18 months to 10 years for a cigarette filter to decompose.

But that isn't the worst of it.

Used cigarette filters are full of toxins, which can leach into the ground and waterways, damaging living organisms that come into contact with them. Most filters are discarded with bits of tobacco still attached to them as well, further polluting our environment with nicotine, which is poisonous.

REACH Council provides school and community-based drug, alcohol and tobacco prevention programs to students and residents in Ellis and Johnson Counties. Our programs are aimed at teaching children essential life skills intended to reduce negative risk factors and to foster healthy peer, family and community relationships.

For more information about REACH Council, contact Reach Council Community Liaison Shari Phillips at shari.phillips@ReachCouncil.org or 972-723-1053 ext. 105.