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Ban cigarette filters to save the environment?


Ban cigarette filters. Start a deposit-return scheme for used butts. Hold manufacturers responsible for clean-ups. Place warnings on packets about the impact of simply flicking one’s used cigarettes away. These are among the policy measures that Thomas Novotny of the San Diego State University in the US and Elli Slaughter advocate to curb the environmental harm done through the large-scale littering of cigarette butts, packaging and matches. The suggestions are part of a review article in Springer’s journal Current Environmental Health Reports.

Cigarette butts and other tobacco product waste are the items that are most commonly picked up during urban and beach clean-ups worldwide. An estimated 4.5 trillion of the annual 6 trillion cigarettes sold worldwide do not end up in a dustbin or ashtray, but are simply flicked away along a roadside or on a pavement. The ban on indoor smoking may have exacerbated this.

Tobacco waste products contain the same toxins, nicotine, pesticides and carcinogens found in cigarettes and cigars, and can contaminate the environment and water sources. Studies show that the chemicals within cigarettes, such as arsenic, nicotine, lead and ethyl phenol, could leach into salt and fresh water and be acutely toxic to aquatic micro-organisms and fish.

It is not only the cigarette ingredients that harm the environment, but also the materials they are made of. Plastic cigarette filters are practically non-biodegradable and can leach chemicals for up to ten years. In the US alone an estimated 49.8 million kilograms of filters are discarded annually. This excludes the weight of remnant butt tobacco, discarded packages, lighters and matches, and other tobacco products such as cigars and smokeless tobacco.

The researchers call filtered cigarettes a “farce” in terms of consumer safety, with a recent National Cancer Institute review showing that these are not healthier or safer than non-filtered ones. Novotny and Slaughter therefore propose a ban on filtered cigarettes. Jonathan Samet from the University of Southern California and the editor of the article recently advised the California State Legislature that “…it is evident that filtered cigarettes have had little impact on the risks of smoking over the last half century.”

Because existing anti-littering laws have not changed smokers’ littering habits, Novotny and Slaughter ask for new environmental interventions and partnerships between tobacco control and environmental groups. They propose litigation to hold the tobacco industry legally responsible for clean-up and nuisance costs associated with their products, advocating the use of labels on cigarette packages about the toxicity of discarded butts, and a deposit-return scheme similar to that used for glass and metal beverage containers. Other options include requesting the industry to pay an advanced recycling fee or to take back all discarded tobacco waste products.

“Tobacco waste products are ubiquitous, environmentally hazardous and a significant community nuisance,” says Novotny. “With two-thirds of all smoked cigarettes, numbering in the trillions globally, being discarded into the environment each year, it is critical to consider the potential toxicity and remediation of these waste products.”

Reference:

Novotny, T.E. & Slaughter, E. (2014). Tobacco Product Waste: An Environmental Approach To Reduce Tobacco Consumption. Current Environmental Health Reports. DOI 10.1007/s40572-014-0016-x.


9 Responses to Ban cigarette filters to save the environment?

  1. Tshepo Kekana 13365437 May 9, 2014 at 12:10 am #

    When people smoke, they do not just damage their lungs, they also destroy our beautiful environment.
    Each time you smoke a cigarette, chemicals are released into the atmosphere, polluting the air.Approximately 5 million hectares (600 million trees) of forest are destroyed each year to provide trees to dry tobacco..
    When it rains, cigarette butts lying in our streets and gutters are washed in to our harbours, beaches and rivers. The chemicals in these butts and the butts themselves impact on our water quality and can be deadly to our marine life.
    Cigarette butts can take up to 12 months to break down in fresh water and up to five years to break down in sea water

  2. TSHEPO KEKANA 13365437 May 8, 2014 at 3:44 pm #

    When people smoke, they do not just damage their lungs, they also destroy our beautiful environment.
    Each time you smoke a cigarette, chemicals are released into the atmosphere, polluting the air.Approximately 5 million hectares (600 million trees) of forest are destroyed each year to provide trees to dry tobacco. This is the same size of 3.6 million Aussie Rules Football fields.
    When it rains, cigarette butts lying in our streets and gutters are washed in to our harbours, beaches and rivers. The chemicals in these butts and the butts themselves impact on our water quality and can be deadly to our marine life.
    Cigarette butts can take up to 12 months to break down in fresh water and up to five years to break down in sea water

  3. u14085110 May 8, 2014 at 2:56 pm #

    Cigarette filters are a threat to the environment and aquatic life because they are non biodegradable and contain toxic ingredients. Cigarettes should be banned as the smokers do not comply with the anti-littering laws therefore cigarette companies should be held responsible for the litter and acute toxicity in the oceans

  4. 13119402 May 8, 2014 at 1:55 am #

    It is not only your health that is affected by cigarette smoking, but also the environment. Opposed to what most people believe, cigarette butts are non biodegradable. Dropping a butt on the ground does not only look bad, but can end up killing the environment. The butt dropped contains many harmful chemicals (such as nicotine and pesticides) which could pollute the soil and end up killing plants and other life. Animals have been found to eat these butts which in time lead to death; a small butt can have a big effect. One of the major problems of why people throw their cigarette butts on the floors is due to the lack of education. Most people are unaware of the effects they can have and so do not see a problem with throwing their butt on the floor. In order to stop the polluting of our environment we need to make the people aware of the effects and show them what damage they are causing. Cigarette pollution should not be tolerated.

  5. 14153972 N Mankganoto May 8, 2014 at 1:29 am #

    Not only are cigarettes bad for your health – they also threaten the environment.Cigarette butts contain heavy metals that can leach into waterways, posing a threat to aquatic life.Contrary to popular belief, cigarette butts are NOT biodegradable! Cigarette butt waste is a huge environmental issue, with a global impact — it is both unsightly and unhealthy. In my opinion I truly belief that the world would be a much better and healthier place without cigarette.

  6. u14362946 May 7, 2014 at 11:36 pm #

    Cigarettes don’t only affect our health by smoking but can also affect us by contaminating our environment by littering cigarettes butts all over the place. If cigarettes are thrown everywhere, they can be washed away to the rivers by the rain and because it contains nicotine, pesticides and carcinogens it can harm aquatic animals and cause them to die which may also result in air pollution. Ban cigarettes filters can really help to save then environment because it will reduce littering and can also prevent bush fires caused by people who throws this cigarettes butts in the bush still lighted. By doing that, we can reduce global warming and also save our ecosystem.

  7. u14141371 May 7, 2014 at 3:24 am #

    since anti-littering laws have been ignored by many smokers, I think it is indeed a good idea that the cigarette industry be held responsible for the removal of cigarette waste, this will make cigarettes more expensive, and perhaps less littering of cigarette butts might occur, because not many people will be able to afford cigarettes.

  8. u14060893 May 7, 2014 at 2:35 am #

    Cigarettes are considered a substantial health hazard; however seldom do individuals consider the risks to the environment which are associated with smoking. The butts of a cigarette contain the same harmful substances: nicotine, pesticides and carcinogens that are found in the actual cigarette! In addition to the unsightly disposal of cigarette butts being able to destroy whole ecosystems and arrays of aquatic life through the release of toxins into the water; it is also possible for the butts to cause large areas to catch alight and thus causing massive areas and large numbers of lives to be destroyed. I believe that a fine should be implemented to discourage smokers to dispose of cigarettes in such an environmentally unfriendly manner.

  9. u13018052 May 7, 2014 at 12:02 am #

    Not only are cigarettes bad for your health – they also threaten the environment.Cigarette butts contain heavy metals that can leach into waterways, posing a threat to aquatic life.Contrary to popular belief, cigarette butts are NOT biodegradable! Cigarette butt waste is a huge environmental issue, with a global impact — it is both unsightly and unhealthy. In my opinion I truly belief that the world would be a much better and healthier place without cigarette.

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