Switching to vaping: The truth about cigarette butt pollution

Millions of smokers around the globe have very little problems with flicking their cigarette butts away into seemingly thin air.  Even though smoking rates in the United States have been steadily dropping for several years, Keep America Beautiful (KAB) says that the pollution caused by cigarette butts is still a significant concern. 

KAB cites two specific reasons for this phenomenon – the lack of availability of outdoor waste receptacles designed especially for combustible tobacco products and a simple lack of awareness on the part of the smoker.  In short, many smokers simply flick their butts without even being consciously aware that they are doing it. 

In fact, in a KAB survey, 77 percent of the respondents claimed that they didn’t even consider cigarette butts to be litter.  KAB also notes that when proper flame-retardant waste receptacles are easily available, cigarette litter drops in the neighboring area by 9 percent on average. 

No butts about it, cigarette filers are bad for the environment

Most people mistakenly assume that the little white fluff located inside a cigarette filter is made of cotton.   Unfortunately, they are actually manufactured with a form of plastic called cellulose acetate that can take up to 10 years to biodegrade.  But wait.  There’s more. 

Used cigarette filters also contain lots of toxic substances which can easily seep into the ground and the water systems nearby.  These toxins can also cause significant harm to the ecosystem, animals, insects, plants, and essentially any living organism within the vicinity. And since most cigarette butts are flicked away with some portion of the tobacco still attached, the nicotine – which is poisonous - can also pollute the environment.

Toxic cigarette butts and wildlife

The toxins in cigarette butts can find their way into the ecosystem and waterways even if they are not discarded directly onto the soil.  Over time, the butts can travel to sewers and storm drains, and the ones that are actually swept up and thrown away can find themselves in landfills and city dumps.  Regardless of where they are flicked, they can easily threaten America’s waterways and drinking water. 

Related Article:  Public health expert blasts AHA for claiming vaping is ‘just as dangerous’ as smoking

A study conducted by Clean Virginia Waterways shows that placing a single cigarette butt in a 2-gallon pail of water causes such a toxicity increase that the water becomes lethal for many forms of tiny crustacean that live in either fresh or salt water.  And the remaining tobacco portions have even more toxins and tend to cause even more destruction than the plastic-filled cigarette butts themselves. 

Cigarette butts are also responsible for killing thousands of wildlife creatures who often mistake the filters for food.  Small children have also been known to ingest them for the same reason.

Alarming statistics about cigarette butts and pollution

The below-listed figures are listed in MILLIONS, BILLIONS and TRILLIONSs.  Think about how large these numbers truly are when reading the following statistics, and many of these statistics occur annually, too.  That’s a lot of butts.

  • Live Science estimates that there are more than ONE BILLION smokers on the planet. By 2025, that number is estimated to escalate to 1.6 BILLION unless many of them switch to vaping, of course.
  • About 93.3 percent of these people are daily smokers, and about 80 percent of them are men.
  • Over half of the male smokers of the world live in just three countries: China, India, and Indonesia.
  • China alone is home to about one-third of the world’s smokers. The nation also has the highest number of female smokers - about 14 MILLION roughly - and the Chinese smoke about 2.3 TRILLION cigarettes per year.
  • In the global population, about 10 MILLION cigarettes are purchased every 60 seconds.
  • 15 billion – BILLION – cigarettes are sold each and every day.
  • The annual figure is a n astonishing 5 TRILLION.
  • 5 TRILLION cigarette butts weigh about 2 BILLION U.S. pounds

Switching to vaping for tobacco harm reduction and pollution prevention

In the United Kingdom, the equivalent to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is an agency called Public Health England (PHE).  In 2015, PHE released the results of extensive research which indicates that vaping is approximately 95 percent less harm – to humans – than smoking.  It is also likely that electronic cigarettes are similarly healthier for the environment, too. 

Scientific research also identifies that combustible tobacco products are filled with thousands of chemicals, 70 of which are carcinogenic.  Vaping, on the other hand, is completely tobacco-free.  In fact, most all e-liquids manufactured also come as a zero-nicotine product, too.

Vapers also never have to worry about dirty ashtrays, yellow teeth, and clothing that constantly smells of nasty cigarettes smoke.  But perhaps one of the least mentioned benefits of switching to vaping is that fact that electronic cigarettes are very eco-friendly.  Switch to vaping and help save the planet. 

Related Article:  The second-hand vape debate: E-cig vapor is 99% less carcinogenic than cigarette smoke

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

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