I hate cig butts and I cannot lie.
The average American smoker smokes between 7-10 cigarettes a day, thats 2,500-3,950 cigarettes a year!! (source). The CDC estimates that 37.8 million Americans smoke, that means we could be looking at 149,310,000,000 cigarette butts making their way into landfills, or worse, the ocean, every single year!!!
And that’s JUST in the United States, alone.
Smoking cigarettes produces carbon dioxide, monoxide, and a boat load of other toxic chemicals. But what about butts? Filters are not recyclable and they are not biodegradable. They’re toxic little pieces of material, and they’re sprinkled on our streets and beaches around the world.
What ARE cigarette butts? What are the filters made of? And why are they harmful?
The Anatomy of a Cigarette:
So basically, the entire cigarette is made of poison. Even the bleached paper wrapped the tobacco in. But butts? The stubby, smoke filled piece of trash that is often flicked to the curb when the cigarette is finished? They contain the filter, and filters are good for you, right?
Don’t think for a second that cigarette filters are doing you any favors. They DO NOT reduce the amount of tiny tar particles or chemicals from adhering to your lungs. They DO make the smoke feel milder on the throat, allowing you to inhale larger amounts.
Filters only manage to block large chunks of tar. But worse? Filter are made out of cellulose acetate — the same chemical they make camera film out of. When smoked, these tiny acetate fibers are inhaled and lodge themselves into your lungs.
This is a tar-coated filter fiber lodged inside lung tissue:
Global Cigarette Pollution:
We know cigarettes are bad for the body. We know second hand smoke is a killer, too. But what about cigarette pollution? When someone flicks their butt, where does it end up?
You might be noticing a theme around here, but yes, if you said ‘the ocean,’ you would be correct! And what do we have for them, Johnny?
We have an infographic from the San Diego Coastkeeper!!!
Here’s the Breakdown:
- On land, under the most ‘favorable’ conditions, it takes at least 25 years for a cigarette butt to decompose.
- Cigarette butts contain arsenic, acetone, ammonia, benzene, cadmium, formaldehyde, lead, and toluene. These toxins leach out when exposed to rainwater and contaminate the environment around them, or drain into a larger water supply. Accumulated, these tiny pieces of trash are creating a huge problem!
- When butts end up in the water supply, they are eaten by marine life who mistake them for other foods, which results in their death.
- And SDSU study concluded that “a single cigarette butt soaked in a liter of water for one day resulted in vastly diminished water quality and the death of 50 percent of the fish therein. The study also found that when tobacco was not present on the filter, it took four cigarette butts, rather than one, to leave the same wake of devastation.” Source.