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Cigarette Butts

Cigarette Butts are Environmentally Toxic and are Considered the Most Littered Item in the World.

Environmentalists have attacked the targets methodically, attempting to eliminate or reduce significant sources of ocean pollution such as plastic bags, eating utensils, and, most recently, drinking straws. This year, more than a dozen coastal cities banned plastic straws. Many more are considering bans, including California and Hawaii. But did you know that the cigarette butt is the most littered item in the world?

Cigarette butts are highly toxic to the environment and the most littered item on the planet.

Are Cigarette Butts Toxic to the Environment?

The small but ubiquitous cigarette butt is the most common man-made contaminant in the world’s oceans and has largely escaped regulation. If a dedicated group of activists has its way, that could change very soon.

A leading tobacco industry academic, a California state legislator, and a global surfing organization are among those who believe cigarette filters should be prohibited. The fledgling campaign hopes to gain traction by bringing together activists concerned with human health and those concerned with the environment.

It’s pretty clear there is no health benefit from filters. They are just a marketing tool. And they make it easier for people to smoke. It’s also a major contaminant with all that plastic waste. It seems like a no-brainer to me that we can’t continue to allow this.

Thomas Novotny, Professor of Public Health at San Diego State University

A California assemblyman proposed a ban on cigarette filters, but it died in committee. A New York state senator has proposed legislation to create a rebate for butts returned to redemption centers, but the proposal has also stalled. San Francisco has made the most progress, with a 60-cent per pack fee that will raise approximately $3 million annually to help defray the costs of cleaning up discarded cigarette filters. (Source: NBC News)

Are Cigarette Butts the Most Polluted Item?

The Truth initiative, one of the nation’s largest anti-smoking organizations, has now targeted cigarette butts. The organization uses funds from a legal settlement between state attorneys general and tobacco companies to send solid anti-smoking messages. The group used the nationally televised Video Music Awards to launch a new anti-cigarette butts campaign. As in previous social media advertisements, the organization is going after the most littered item in the world.

It’s no wonder that cigarette butts have drawn attention. The vast majority of the 5.6 trillion cigarettes produced each year globally use cellulose acetate filters, a type of plastic that can take a decade or more to decompose. According to Novotny, who founded the Cigarette Butt Pollution Project, up to two-thirds of those filters are dumped irresponsibly each year.

People sometimes dump trash on beaches, but more often than not, it washes into the oceans from countless storm drains, streams, and rivers worldwide. The waste frequently degrades into microplastics that wildlife can consume. Researchers discovered detritus in approximately 70% of seabirds and 30% of sea turtles.

Those discarded filters typically contain synthetic fibers and hundreds of chemicals used to treat tobacco, according to Novotny, who is conducting additional research into the types of cigarette waste leech into the soil, streams, rivers, and oceans. (Source: NBC News

Image from BBC