The public health danger posed by cigarettes is well known, but the effects of smoking on the environment are less understood. However, we already know that cigarette butts are a major source of pollution throughout the world. In the United States, a new initiative has begun to alert the public of this environmental scourge.
Many people in the United States are currently talking about the pollution caused by plastic straws, but the American media is also interested in a similar pollutant: cigarette butts. Cigarettes butts take 10 years to decompose and they release toxic chemicals and heavy metals into the ground.
The damage to the environment is catastrophic, because Big Tobacco produces 5.6 billion cigarettes each year! Two-thirds of all cigarette butts are thrown on the ground and are of course never recycled. They pollute the sewers and the earth itself, as well as water supplies and the world’s oceans.
Used cigarette filters are the main culprits
How can we fight against such a global pollution scourge? In San Diego, a campaign called Cigarette Butt Pollution Project has just begun. Led by Thomas Novotny, a professor of public health, the movement is trying to change the public’s mentality about cigarette butts, calling on both companies and governments to take more responsibility.
For Novotny, cigarette filters only make cigarettes “easier to smoke.” Other solutions may also be envisioned. In the absence of governmental pressure, cigarette companies have rejected alternative filters, which are sometimes more expensive and sometimes less addictive.
What kind of results will the Cigarette Butt Pollution Project have in terms of protecting the environment? Initially, it will surely attract media attention and will raise public awareness. As for changing Big Tobacco’s policies, this may be a case of wishful thinking…