By Jeff Sherman Staff Writer Published Jun 30, 2010 at 9:12 AM

Effective July 5, Wisconsin will go smoke-free. We all know this.

What, though, could this mean for our sidewalks? Cigarette butts, if you didn't know, are the most-littered item in America, representing nearly 30 percent of all items documented in nationwide clean-up initiatives.

In light of new smoke-free legislation, Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21 and Keep Greater Milwaukee Beautiful are partaking in the Keep America Beautiful Cigarette Litter Prevention Program, to hopefully help reduce the impact of cigarette butt litter in Downtown Milwaukee.

"The cigarette litter prevention program has been proven effective. Simple actions like installing ash receptacles and distributing pocket ashtrays have made a big difference in decreasing litter and ultimately keeping communities beautiful," said Beth Nicols, executive director of Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21.

"This is not an anti-smoking campaign, but rather a campaign to educate smokers to take responsibility for their butts. By raising awareness, we expect similar reductions here in Downtown Milwaukee."

An initial scan of cigarette butt litter (see photos) has been conducted by Milwaukee Downtown's Clean Sweep Ambassadors in the area bounded by North 2nd and North 4th Streets to West Michigan and West Wells streets.

Cigarette butt litter in this sample area will be monitored throughout the campaign. A final scan will be conducted in early August to track and evaluate the success of the program.

Four approaches will be integrated into this new local campaign: encourage enforcement of litter laws that include cigarette litter; raise awareness about the issue using public service messages; assess the number of ash receptacles at transition points such as entrances to public buildings; and distribute pocket ashtrays to adult smokers.

Personally, I think the pocket ashtrays are a bit lame. Good intention, but if I smoked I don't think I'd carry around a personal ashtray. But, I do get their message. We'll see if smokers do.

I realize that many smokers think it's fine to drop cigarettes on the ground, step on them and extinguish. Sure, this works. But, it's no different than me dropping my Alterra coffee cup on the ground and leaving it there. Litter is litter.

Back to this new clean up effort. In 2008, nearly 200 communities that used this four-pronged approach reported an average 46 percent reduction in littered butts.

Will it help in Downtown? We'll see. Bottom line is litter is litter and cig buts are litter. So, if you smoke on the sidewalk, dispose properly and go about your day.

Jeff Sherman Staff Writer

A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.

He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.

Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.  He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.  

He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.

He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.