How Does Smoking Hurt the Environment?
How Does Smoking Hurt the Environment?
Springtime means flowers, fresh air, babbling brooks, a blue sky and, all in all, a chance to enjoy the beautiful outdoors. But all of that beauty is at risk because of how cigarettes are damaging our environment. Researchers estimate that 1.7 billion pounds of cigarette butts accumulate in lakes and oceans and on beaches and the rest of the planet every year. Discarded cigarette butts and filters contain the same dangerous chemicals contained in a cigarette, including carcinogens and other poisons.
Globally, about 4.3 trillion cigarette butts litter the earth every year. Smokers in the United States account for more than 250 billion cigarette butts, in the United Kingdom 200 tons of butts are discarded, and Australian smokers litter more than 7 billion cigarette butts every year. In most Western countries cigarette butt litter accounts for approximately 50 percent of all litter.1
We don’t live in a vacuum, and the choices we make have a way of trickling down to others—even the people we love. Clearly, you don’t mean to harm your family, your pets, the wildlife and the environment you love by smoking and chewing tobacco but, sadly, that’s exactly what your tobacco waste is doing to the earth. It doesn’t take a brainiac to make the connection between the cigarette butt you flick out of your car window and the cigarette filters found in the stomachs of fish and birds who mistake them for food.2
We need to take an honest look at the dangers associated with cigarette butts and other tobacco-related litter. Think about how smoking hurts the environment. It’s harming the very land and people you’ve pledged to protect.
Caution: Children at Play
All of the chemicals contained in cigarettes and filters which are discarded seep back into the planet one way or another. The scariest scenario is when adults smoke at or near backyards, parks, or playgrounds, and then curious babies and toddlers pick up the butts and put them in their mouths. If the children are playing on the shore, keep this in mind: Cigarette butts can ooze out chemicals such as cadmium, lead, and arsenic into the delicate marine environment within an hour of contact with water. So, if you flick your butt at 11:00 am, by the time you’re eating your lunch under the beach umbrella, those dangerous chemicals are starting their deadly dance.
These Butts Are Stalkers!
It would be great if cigarette material would just disappear, biodegrade, or disintegrate and not harm the environment. No such luck. These leftovers latch on to our environment and will not let go. Simply put, they just do not biodegrade. Experts say cigarette butts rank at the very top of litter problems—not just because they are EVERYWHERE, but because they are toxic and nonbiodegradable3. They remain in sewers, beaches, soil, and bodies of water for years and even decades, and they eventually pollute our lakes and oceans, and of course, all the birds, fish, and mammals whose lives depend on those bodies of water.
Sound the Alarm
The simple act of lighting a match to your cigarette, cigar, or pipe puts your home at risk and sets the stage for significant commercial property damage. The losses from fires caused by smoking cost about half a billion dollars per year and $3 billion for tobacco-related cleaning and maintenance.4 It’s especially tragic that these fires killed 800 people and injured 1,660 others in 2005 alone.5
Your Spit Won’t Split
Tobacco chewers don’t usually swallow the tobacco juice, so that residue has to go somewhere. And that somewhere can be anywhere the chewer happens to be. If you look around a spitter’s home, you are likely to see tobacco juice stains on clothing, furniture, and even on the car’s upholstery. It makes sense that, if the smokeless user is outside, the juice will end up in the garden, in the park, on the sidewalk. . . basically anywhere the spitter walks, tobacco spit and drool is likely to be making a mess.6
New FAQs give you more detail about the impact of discarded tobacco material on the fragile environment. Read those to better understand the ways in which your smoking and spitting, and even tobacco farming and manufacturing, are destroying our majestic mountains, fruited plains, and clear blue skies.
You already knew that your smoke gets in your family’s eyes and lungs, and now you know your butts and spit gets in their soil, their beaches, and their playgrounds. You have the power to reverse the damage that has been done by properly discarding cigarette butts. On second thought, you can use this knowledge as a springboard for a healthy decision to make your own quit plan. Let’s keep it clean! Quit Tobacco—Make Everyone Proud.
1 BUTTsOUT. Ten things you should know about cigarette butt litter. Cited 2009 Apr 7. Available from: http://www.buttsout.net/litter_stats.
2 County of Fairfax, VA. Don’t be a litterbug: You’re your butt where it belongs! 2008 Nov 27 (cited 2009 Apr 7). Available from: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/nvswcd/newsletter/buttlitter.htm.
3 Carlozo, LR. Cigarettes: 1.7 billion pounds of trash. Chicago Tribune 2008 Jun 17 (cited 2009 Apr 7). Available from: http://archives.chicagotribune.com/2008/jun/17/news/chi-cigarette-butts-0618-nujun18.
4 Lindblom, E. Toll of tobacco in the United States of America. Washington, DC: Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids; 2009 Apr 1 (cited 2009 Apr 7). Available from: http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/research/factsheets/pdf/0072.pdf.
5 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fire prevention research saves lives. Injury Research in Action (cited 209 Apr 7). Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/ERPO/UNC-success-story.pdf.
6 National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Spit tobacco: A guide for quitting. Bethesda (MD): National Institutes of Health; 2009 Feb 11 (cited 2009 Apr 7). Available from: http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/SpitTobacco/SpitTobaccoAGuideforQuitting.htm.