Letter to the Editor: Tobacco waste toxic to the enviroment

May 6, 2015

More and more effort is being put into living more green and protecting our environment, but people may not think about the impact of tobacco litter on the environment. In the U.S. alone, a large number of the 280 billion cigarettes purchased each year end up littering sidewalks, waterways, parks, beaches and public roads. In fact, smoking-related debris is one-third or more of all debris items found on U.S. beaches and in rivers and streams.

The issue is that cigarette filters are not biodegradable and are toxic.  Filters are made of a plastic material which can stay in the environment for generations.  Tobacco litter also leaches toxic chemicals-including arsenic, cadmium, lead and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons-that could pollute the environment and harm its ecosystems.

Not only is tobacco waste toxic but it is also very destructive. Discarded cigarettes can ignite out-of-control fires. More than 900 people in the U.S. die each year in fires started by cigarettes.

Tips to help reduce tobacco waste:
1)    Make an effort to get a group together to clean up the tobacco waste where we live, work, learn and play.
2)    If you use tobacco, stop throwing the waste on the ground.
3)    Quit using tobacco. That is the number one way to avoid creating more toxic tobacco waste.

“Butt waste isn’t just litter: Filters falsely reassure smokers, and cigarette waste damages habitat, landscapes, and ecosystems; ignites destructive, deadly fires; poisons wildlife and children; consumes tax dollars for cleanup and disposal; and lasts forever!” (Cigarette Butt Pollution Project, 2014)

For more information about how to get involved with the UWW Tobacco-Free Campus Coalition, email [email protected] You can also find out more information at www.uww.edu/uhcs or on the UWW Tobacco-Free Campus Coalition Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/UWW.TFC.

1)    Legacy: For Longer Healthier Lives. Cigarettes and the Environment. http://www.legacyforhealth.org/our-issues/cigarettes-and-the-environment

2)    Cigarettes Butt Pollution Project. http://www.cigwaste.org/

Caitlyn Mischnick
Biology Major
Co-Student Leader of The Tobacco Free Coalition