World Environment Day: Addressing Cigarette Butt Waste
San Diego, CA – June 5, 2014 – Today we celebrate World Environment Day, which calls for positive environmental action worldwide. Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world, with more than 5 trillion butts dumped unconsciously and inexcusably into the global environment each year. Nearly all cigarettes contain filters made of cellulose acetate, a plastic product, making discarded butts a non-biodegradable toxic waste. As such, they create an environmental blight on streets, sidewalks, waterways, and other public areas.
In addition to being a public nuisance, laboratory studies on cigarette butts have found that the substances leaching out of them are acutely toxic to both fresh and saltwater fish, water fleas, and aquatic micro-organisms. Other environmental consequences of tobacco use includedeforestation as a result of tobacco production, degradation of agricultural land through pesticide use and water pollution during tobacco growing, wild fires caused by cigarette smoking, solid, liquid, and airborne wastes produced during the cigarette manufacturing process, and more than 2 billion kilograms of carbon dioxide and 5 billion kilograms of methane releases annually while cigarettes are being smoked.
“Given these substantial life cycle-related environmental impacts, among others,” stated Dr. Thomas Novotny, President of the Cigarette Butt Pollution Project, “the tobacco industry’s long-standing refusal to prevent, reduce and mitigate their toxic, polluting activities necessitates the adoption of strong policies, laws and regulations at all levels of governance that either mandate required responses or place responsibility squarely on industry’s shoulders for doing so.”
As a member of the Framework Convention Alliance, the Cigarette Butt Pollution Project (CBPP) supports the only existing international health treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which calls for global cooperative actions to achieve a tobacco free world. CBPP strongly believes that the world should be free from the devastating health, social, economic and environmental consequences of tobacco use. CBPP is dedicated to eradicating toxic tobacco waste from the environment and providing communities and other organizations with the tools necessary to hold the tobacco industry accountable for the costs and cleanup associated with this toxic waste. This can be achieved by:
- Using existing environmental regulations to prevent, mitigate, and reduce post-consumer toxic tobacco waste products
- Holding the tobacco industry financially and legally accountable for post-consumer tobacco product waste prevention, mitigation, and reduction
- Banning the sale of single-use cigarette filters in order to both reduce tobacco product waste and reduce cigarette consumption
Among the important binding obligations under the FCTC, Article 9 calls for regulation of the contents of tobacco products, Article 18 obligates Parties to protect the environment and people’s health in relation to agriculture and manufacturing of tobacco products, and Article 19 compels Parties to consider taking legislative action to address the issue of industry liability for the adverse consequences of tobacco use. In the context of these and related obligations, increased attention to tobacco product waste contamination of our environment is needed, and will by doing so reduce tobacco use.
“Through World Environment Day we are reminded of the individual and collective power of becoming agents of change,” added Novotny. “By joining CBPP and other simpatico environmental, public health and tobacco control groups, we can work with governments, the private sector and others to help create a global environment free of toxic cigarette butt contamination.”
Contact: Dr. Thomas Novotny, MD, MPH