Look at this photo closely. Isn't it a disgusting sight? Not only is it unsightly, it is unhealthy and costly. With indoor smoking becoming more and more restricted, smokers are increasingly taking their habit outside. They often take a few puffs before hopping on a bus and then quickly discard their cigarettes on the ground. Unfortunately, it's not only bus stops that are surrounded by tobacco litter. It's parks, beaches, parking lots, university campuses, almost anywhere outdoors.
Today is Earth Day and over 170 countries have signed the Paris agreement on climate change, including Canada's Justin Trudeau. This Earth Day, here is my modest contribution to cleaning up the planet. I would like to draw attention to the infinitesimal number of cigarette butts on the streets of our cities and towns. Perhaps many smokers do not fully realize the damage they are doing to the environment and to public health when they flick their cigarettes on the ground. Perhaps they don't regard it as littering. Make no mistake, though. It is littering and it is extremely harmful to humans and to domestic and wildlife animals.
The sheer volume of cigarette debris is bad enough. However, it is far worse than other garbage lying about. Cigarette butts can remain on the ground for years, leaking toxic chemicals into the environment. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, cigarettes contain almost 4,000 chemicals, About 50 of them are carcinogenic. Here is a list of some of these chemicals: arsenic, acetone, ammonia, benzene, cadmium, formaldehyde, lead and toluene.
In 2009, scientific researchers at San Diego State University stated that cigarette butts are toxic to fish and should be treated as toxic hazardous waste. A cigarette butt with just a small amount of unburnt tobacco can contaminate a litre of water and kill half the fish in it. Others animals also eat improperly disposed butts and quite frequently die as a result.
Here are some other facts you should know:
CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEF, CIGARETTE BUTTS ARE NOT BIODEGRADABLE!
Cigarette filters are composed of cellulose-acetate, which does not biodegrade. When cigarette butts are discarded outside of buildings and parking lots, they can be transported via storm drains to streams, rivers, lakes and beaches. They contaminate our water supply.
According to research by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, cigarette debris is responsible for the deaths of at least one million sea birds and 100,000 mammals annually.
CIGARETTE BUTTS ARE THE MOST FREQUENTLY DISCARDED WASTE AROUND THE WORLD.
Trillions of cigarette butts end up as litter every year.
IN DRY WEATHER, CIGARETTE BUTTS ARE A SERIOUS FIRE HAZARD.
Cigarettes butts discarded on to a pile of leaves or in a grassy area can smolder for several hours after the smoker has finished smoking. This results in forest fires and roadside fires. The cost in terms of the loss human life and the destruction of animal and plant life is incalculable and tragic. The cost in terms of property damage is extremely high and everyone must pay.
One word best describes cigarette butt litter. That word is "vile." Public education is urgently needed. More and better methods for disposing of cigarette butts are required. There should be a larger number of places to discard tobacco residue outdoors. If this blog post can persuade even one smoker to stop throwing butts on the ground, it will be well worth the time and effort. Please, smokers, be much more careful about where you discard your cigarette butts. Remember too that it is dangerous to flick cigarette butts out of car windows. Many of you wouldn't thinking of throwing candy wrappers on the ground. Why, then, do you poison the environment with your toxic cigarette butts?