Local schoolchildren from Knelston Primary joined a clean beach to celebrate Port Eynon’s participation in a smoke-free campaign.
The campaign encourages visitors not to smoke on the beach through a voluntary smoke-free initiative, which aims to reduce cigarette waste and protect the environment.
The campaign was launched by ASH Cymru, a health organization that raises awareness of the harms of tobacco in Wales. Port Eynon is the third beach in Swansea to join the voluntary initiative, which will be signposted at main entrances to the beach.
The campaign has been well received by local schoolchildren, who have joined ASH Cymru and Swansea Council to clean up the beach. The cleanup was organized to raise awareness of the environmental harms of cigarette waste, with the aim of protecting the coastline for future generations.
Cigarette butts remain a big problem in Wales, with the latest survey from the Marine Conservation Society revealing that Welsh beaches had the highest amount of cigarette butt litter in Britain.
The survey found an average of 64.2 cigarette butts per 100m of Welsh beach in 2021, a big increase from 9.5 in 2020 and 32.6 in 2019.
Globally, 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are thrown away each year, making cigarette butts one of the most polluted objects in the world.
Cigarette butts take up to 12 years to decompose, and in the process, they release nicotine and heavy metals before turning into microplastic pollution. Additionally, studies looking at the toxicity of cigarette butts have found that they contain around 4,000 harmful chemicals, which can ultimately leach into the environment.
Research has shown that a cigarette butt left to sit in water for 96 hours releases enough toxins to kill half of saltwater and freshwater fish exposed to it.
In addition to environmental benefits, research has shown that smoke-free spaces can reduce exposure to second-hand smoke and can positively influence social norms. In light of this, ASH Cymru believes the new smoke-free initiative will create a safer and ultimately cleaner environment for visitors.
Suzanne Cass, CEO of ASH Cymru praised the involvement of the local school, highlighting how children can help shape a greener society.
She says: “We are delighted that local children recognize the importance of protecting the environment, which will in turn contribute to wider efforts to create a healthier and greener Wales.
“Ultimately, it is our children who will reap the benefits of today’s initiative. Our efforts now can have a big impact on their future.”
Mr Philip Jenkins, Headmaster of Knelston Primary Schoolemphasized the importance of educating children about the harms of cigarettes.
He said: “It is important that we say that cigarettes can not only harm our health, but also our natural environment.
“Our children will continue to be the next guardians of Wales, and we must educate them for this responsibility. It is up to us to ensure that our children become ethically informed citizens not only of Wales, but also of the world”.
To date, Langland Bay, Caswell Bay and Little Haven in Pembrokeshire have joined the ASH Cymru Smoke-free Beach campaign. It is believed that the addition of Port Eynon, one of the most popular sites on the Gower Peninsula, will encourage other beach authorities to take similar green action.
A spokesman for Swansea Council said: “The Council fully supports initiatives to protect the coastline for future generations.
“We hope the voluntary initiative will encourage visitors to take the small steps needed to make a big difference in protecting our local environment.”
Nationally, the Welsh Government recently pledged to reduce the environmental impact of smoking. The pledge was recently echoed in the new Tobacco Control Strategy for Wales, which aims to create a healthier smoke-free nation by 2030.
Deputy Minister of Mental Health and Wellness, Lynne Neagleoversees the new strategy and welcomed the rollout of the new Smoke Free initiative.
She says: “It’s great to see so many young people involved in today’s beach cleanups and, in turn, supporting the new initiative.
“As I stressed in the foreword to the new Tobacco Control Strategy for Wales, we all need to come together to help limit the harmful effects of smoking. Initiatives like this bring us one step closer to a healthier, more environmentally conscious nation.”