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The Most Littered Item

An estimated 4.5 trillion tobacco filters (butts) are littered each year, globally.[1] For those of us in Florida, for 31 consecutive years, they have been the most littered item along our coast[2], and most coastlines for that matter. According to The Guardian, on beaches where smoking is still permitted, cigarette butts continue to rank number one as the most littered item.[3] But why should we care about something so small? Let’s start with what is in those cigarette butts. The WHO states that tobacco products contain over 7,000 toxic chemicals that easily leech into our soils and water.[1] Some of these harmful chemicals include formaldehyde, nicotine, arsenic, lead, and copper.[4] Then we need to think about the plastic that’s in the cigarette. 90% of all commercially produced cigarettes have plastic filters.[5] Because plastic is not biodegradable, they only become smaller and continue to leech its chemicals into the environment while inadvertently becoming part of what wildlife eats. This can lead to malnutrition and even death.

Truth Initiative also has an in-depth PDF which is a wealth of information. Download PDF:

Truth_Environment FactSheet Update 2021_071222
Download PDF • 1.51MB

We know cigarette butts are an issue, but what can we do about it? 1. The first one is obvious, don’t smoke. Not only is it bad for the environment, but it’s also bad for you! 2. Encourage others not to smoke. Yes, it is very much a sensitive topic and, in the end, it is a personal choice. However, we can lead by example and keep others informed. If nothing else, encourage those who smoke to dispose of the butts responsibly. 3. Ask your local government to restrict smoking on the beach, near rivers, and in parks. There is a lot of talk about single-use plastic bans, like ones for plastic straws, and they are absolutely important. However, cigarette butts are a far bigger problem and need to be addressed as such. 4. Ask your elected officials to enact tougher penalties for people who violate smoking restrictions. 5. Be an advocate for changing the smoking culture and get the message out there. As Twitter follower stated, it’s so common for smokers to just flick the cigarette when they are done with it. It’s a habit and it has been for a long time. But we can change that through proper messaging that focuses on stating the facts and the benefit of not smoking at all!



[1] “WHO raises alarm on tobacco industry environmental impact.” 31 May 2022. [2] “Florida Sen. Gruters pushes for cigarette ‘butts off the beach’,” 4 January 2022. [3] “Cigarette butts: how the no 1 most littered objects are choking our coasts.” Kassam, Ashifa. 18 Aug 2022. [4] “Facts about cigarette butts and smoke.” UC Berkeley.,of%20polyaromatic%20hydrocarbons%20(PAHs). [5] “The intractable cigarette ‘filter problem.” Harris, Bradford. Stanford University.


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