News Release
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   August 20, 2001

George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., MD, MPH
Acting Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg, 609-984-7160
For Fleishman-Hillard
Lisa Holmes, 212-453-2489



New Jersey's Youth Anti-tobacco Movement Takes Positive Steps to Combat Environmental Damage Caused by Tossed Cigarette Butts

More than 550 members of New Jersey's youth anti-tobacco movement known as REBEL (Reaching Everyone By Exposing Lies) came out to clean up cigarette butts and other litter along the New Jersey shore along with state and local officials.

"My thanks to all the young people who came out to our beaches - all in the name of taking a stand on the importance of the environmental damage caused by cigarettes," said Acting Governor Donald T. DiFrancesco. "It is encouraging to see our youth take up the important issue of not smoking from a health standpoint as well as for environmental reasons. New Jersey has 127 miles of beautiful beaches from Cape May to Sandy Hook and while litter from cigarettes are not welcome, residents and visitors very much are."

The Beach Butts Clean-up, sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), gave the REBEL Beach Patrol an opportunity to call attention to the long-lasting problems associated with cigarette butts, by far the most prevalent form of litter on New Jersey beaches.

"The Beach Patrol is an excellent example of the REBEL movement taking action to bring about positive social changes in our communities," said acting Health and Senior Services Commissioner George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., MD. "In New Jersey our teens take a hands-on approach to educating their friends, families, and communities about problems associated with smoking in areas where families come to enjoy the outdoors."

Currently, Belmar is the only New Jersey shore community to pass legislation that designates non-smoking areas on its beach.

"Cigarette butts can be harmful to wildlife as they are made of a form of plastic and do not degrade. Sea animals and birds can mistake the filters for food, and accidentally eat them," said Bob Shinn, Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Data collected during the Beach Butts Clean-up will be added to data collected by DEP's Adopt-A-Beach volunteers who have been conducting beach clean-ups since 1993.

"We think people who visit the shore, deserve beaches that are clean and safe," said Chris Fricke, 16, of Wantage. "I wouldn't want to think of a small child picking up a butt and trying to eat it." "We hope communities can use the information we gather to encourage visitors to keep beaches clean at all times," added Lauren Pilstra, 16, of Hawthorne.
Following the REBEL Beach Patrol clean-up, REBEL held a celebration and awards presentation in Ocean City, NJ to highlight the environmental clean-up and other successes of the movement. REBEL, which was founded in November of 2000, is dedicated to preventing teens from picking up the smoking habit and to encouraging smokers to quit. Bust Your Butts on the Beach Day also represented an ongoing effort to recruit new members.

Among New Jersey smokers, one third will die prematurely from smoking-related diseases. REBEL's mission is to successfully break this cycle and eliminate the single most preventable cause of death and disease in New Jersey. According to recent surveys conducted by DHSS, nearly 27.6 percent of high school students and 10.5 percent of middle school students had smoked cigarettes in the last month. Preventing teens from starting to smoke is important, since more than 80 percent of adults who smoke had their first cigarette before they turned 18.
REBEL is just one of many initiatives sponsored by DHSS and funded with money from the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement between 46 states and the tobacco industry. New Jersey is one of only 15 states that are directing a substantial portion of these funds -$30 million - toward smoking prevention and cessation. New Jersey's Comprehensive Tobacco Control Program is designed to reduce the sickness, disability and death among New Jerseyans associated with the use of tobacco and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.

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