Cigarette butts littered around Langara campus are potential threat for animals

Local wildlife mistakes cigarette butts for food causing serious damage says expert


Reported by Jennifer Blake

The cigarette butts outside of Langara College could have serious consequences on local urban wildlife, according to an environment and pollution expert.

After Langara College initiated a smoke-free campus policy last May and removed all ashtrays, cigarette butts are now piling up on the ground around the school’s perimeter.

Raymond Yeung, facilities manager at Langara, said there are people patrolling the perimeter a few times a week to clean up cigarette butts.

“That’s something that we’ve started since the smoking ban,” Yeung said.

Despite their efforts, cigarette butts are still being tossed on the ground daily.

Cigarette butt next to a bone in the grass on the Langara campus. Photo by Jennifer Blake
Cigarette butts cause damage

Kai Chan, a UBC professor of biodiversity and ecosystems, said there would absolutely be an impact on local wildlife from cigarette butts littered around the campus.

“They’re not good for people, and similarly not good for wildlife,” Chan said. “They can’t recognize them as being something undesirable, so quite a few species will eat them.”

Chan added cigarette butts are virtually indigestible, leaching a range of chemicals into the stomachs of animals and permanently taking up room that’s meant for food.

“It is quite common to find cigarette butts in the stomachs of animals,” Chan said.

No ashtrays on campus

Many smokers also toss their cigarette butts near the pond next to the parking lot by Building A, where ducks are often seen swimming. Ducks are a species that have been known to eat cigarette butts, Chan said.

A pair of ducks swimming in a pond near the parking lot at Langara College. Photo by Jennifer Blake

Paula Velazquez, a commerce and business student at Langara College, said she smokes less since moving from Mexico to Canada since she sees less people smoking.

“I get used to what people do here and I don’t see too many people smoking so I reduce the amount I do,” she said.

Without ashtrays on campus, Velazquez said she keeps her cigarette butts until she can find a garbage can to throw them out.

“Probably would be nice, like one or two [ashtrays on campus] because it’s pretty dirty,” she said.

Langara facilities has no current plans to install cigarette disposals on or around the campus, Yeung said.

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