Students picked up a lot of cigarette butts in downtown Prineville in a short period of time last week

The Great American Smokeout takes place this Thursday, and once again, local health leaders are taking time to spread word of the national event and encourage people to give up their tobacco habit.

Given the overwhelming research and evidence presented throughout the past few decades about the health risks associated with smoking, it is good to see a national day devoted to encouraging people to quit and further providing them support to do so in many different forms.

Similarly encouraging to see is young students getting involved in the effort. Crook County High School's Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) plans to spread their message against youth smoking during a Thursday event. Perhaps their efforts will cause teens to stop and think before trying a cigarette, or perhaps take their first steps toward quitting.

Recent county health rankings suggest that smoking and tobacco use in general is higher than average in Crook County versus the rest of the state. Hopefully, the efforts of local health leaders and high school students help bring the numbers down in the future.

Meanwhile, another Great American Smokeout activity held last week highlights a different problem tied to smoking, one not associated with health risks, but certainly related to community pride and respect for public and private property.

The SADD group, joined by staff from the Crook County Health Department, met Thursday afternoon in front of Pine Theater to pick up discarded cigarette butts. Their initial plan was to cover the downtown Prineville streets then move on to local parks.

Watching the work was a bit discouraging. The activity was not much of a treasure hunt as students found cigarette butts with ease, walking just a couple feet from one location to the next in certain instances and picking up anywhere from a couple to a dozen or more.

The group started at 4 p.m., about an hour from sunset, and by the time they were done, they had dumped a sizeable amount of cigarette butts into five different gallon-size zip lock bags. The group spent so much time in the downtown area, they never even made it to the parks.

Urging people to quit smoking is something done with the understanding that it is extremely tough to do. Well-intentioned, dedicated people have tried time and time again and have failed — it's why so many support groups and resources have been developed to help people succeed.

But if you must smoke, there is no reason to simply dump the discarded cigarette butt on the ground in a public place. Find somewhere to dispose of it. Like any type of litter, dropping cigarette butts on the ground detracts from the appearance of the community that local leaders and citizens alike take pride in and work to enhance.

A small group of people should not be able to pick up literally hundreds of cigarette butts within a few city blocks in a little more than an hour. It may be hard to quit, but it isn't nearly as hard to quit littering.

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