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Butt Kicking – But Not To The Curb!

Each year more than 360 billion cigarettes are smoked in the United States, and the majority of those butts end up on public roads, waterways, parks and beaches. New research shows the negative impact that cigarette filters and discarded cigarette butts have on the environment. Cigarette butts contain heavy metals that can leach into waterways, posing a threat to aquatic life. The new data is part of a survey funded by the national public health foundation Legacy in the journal Tobacco Control. In observance of Earth Day, Legacy urges smokers to quit smoking, and if they can’t, at least properly dispose of cigarette butts and filters.

  • Nearly 2 million cigarettes or cigarette filters/butts were picked up internationally from beaches and inland waterways as part of the annual International Coastal Cleanup in 2010. That number includes more than one million from the United States alone.
  • Cigarette butts have potentially toxic effects on ecosystems. For example, in one laboratory test, one cigarette butt soaked in a liter of water was lethal to half of the fish exposed.
  • Poison centers report hundreds of cases of cigarette butt consumption among children under 6 years old, with some cases of moderate toxicity due to nicotine poisoning.
  • Tobacco products are the single largest type of litter collected along U.S. roads and beaches.
  • Even under ideal conditions, cigarette butts can take years to degrade.
  • Cigarette litter clean-up costs can be substantial to local authorities. An economic study based on a litter audit in San Francisco found the clean-up cost to be more than $5.6 million annually. In an effort to reduce that cost, the San Francisco City Council imposed a 20 cent per pack “litter fee” on cigarettes sold in the city in 2009.

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