70-year-old Air Force veteran Jim Alturo has always made serving his community a priority. While volunteering at his local Food Bank, he noticed how littered the streets of his New Jersey community were and decided to take it upon himself to clean them up. “I noticed that the most common trash I was picking up were cigarette butts. So, I decided it might be fun to keep track.”

In January 2023, Jim began counting the cigarette butts with the goal of collecting 15,000. He would far exceed his goal by December. “I was walking and feeling healthier. Each day I would walk a little farther and pick up more cigarettes. And next thing I know I have collected over 24,000 butts.” Jim decided he needed to do something to commemorate this accomplishment and raise awareness about the dangers of tobacco use.

Jim has never smoked himself, but as a child he remembers the smell and cloudy air that made him cough when he was around his parents’ smoking. His mother quit in her 60s but Jim’s father smoked his entire life. Jim vowed never to pick up the habit himself. He also says a movie he saw in health class as a child left quite an impact on him and is why the Lung Association came to mind when he began his project. He decided to donate a penny for every cigarette butt he collected.

Jim’s friend was impressed by the project and decided that Jim needed a bigger platform to amplify his efforts. He was featured on the news and talked with people in his township about getting involved. “I wanted to do something good and I liked the challenge, I never thought it would turn into this big of an initiative. So far, I have raised over $2,800 and climbing,” he said. The growing movement has allowed Jim to recently begin recycling the cigarettes with Terracycle. 

“My goal for 2024 is to pick up 35,000 – 50,000 cigarette butts and to spread the word nationwide. I am off to a flying start; in January I collected over 3,800 and I just keep collecting more and more."

Jim picking up cigarettes by the side of the road

DIY Fundraising

Jim’s project, which you can donate to online, is a great example of do-it-yourself fundraising, one of the newest ways the Lung Association is trying to spread the word about lung disease while raising money. Since their launch in 2022, DIY campaigns allow constituents to be creative in the ways that they honor someone with lung disease. Currently four evergreen campaign ideas— Be a Lung-Saver, SMASH the Stats, Powered by Lungs and Livestream— seek to engage many different types of people.

Through Be a Lung Saver, you can start a fundraiser to honor someone living with lung disease by asking friends and family to donate to the Lung Association in place of birthday or anniversary gifts. SMASH the Stats fundraising focuses on performing any kind of SMASH activity you can think of as a fun way to raise awareness and funds. This could be hosting a pickleball tournament, visiting a smash room or smashing a cake into someone’s face. Powered by Lungs team members dedicate their participation in a sport, event or activity, including running, hiking, cycling and more, to the American Lung Association's efforts to end lung disease. Creating a livestream or video is another great way to join the online community of content creators while also helping us achieve a world free of lung disease. However, if none of these platforms speak to you, like Jim you can create something of your own. 

Freedom From Smoking Clinic
, | May 29, 2024
Freedom From Smoking Clinic
Detroit, MI | May 29, 2024