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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Smoking and Environment: Do Not Leave Your Butts Behind

We are all well aware of the effects of smoking on our health. But how about on our environment? I do not think so. We know that if we do not stop the habit we may end up suffering various diseases, but how about its effects to the people around us? Cigarette smoking has varied effects on the global environment.

Smoking Effects To Environment

Butt Litter

There is an estimated 4.5 trillion butts which are non-biodegradable that are discarded into the environment every year. It has also been suggested that these butts represent one of the biggest litter problems the world faces today. In addition, it has been estimated that 1 in every 3 cigarettes end up as a litter. These cigarette butts can take up to 12 years to break down. Basically, the filter is composed of cellulose acetate which is a form of plastic, and as we all know, they do not decompose easily and there are many forms of plastic can even take up to 1, 000 years before they decompose.

Water Pollution

When the cigarette butts are being discarded to the ground, large amounts of toxic chemicals will leach out from cigarettes and would run into the lakes and oceans. Cigarette butts leach chemicals like cadmium, arsenic and lead in the marine environment in an hour of contact with water. They have even been found in the stomachs of whales, birds, fishes, and other marine animals, leading to the ingestion of hazardous chemicals and other digestive blockages. The pieces can lodge in the animal's intestinal tract and build up in their stomach. This can lead to the death of these animals.


Every year, nearly 600 million trees have been destroyed just to provide fuel to dry tobacco. Putting it in another way, one tree is destroyed in every 300 cigarettes. Tobacco curing demands 11.4 million tons of solid wood yearly. Curing is the process of drying tobacco leaf. In most developing countries, acres of trees are chopped down and burned to dry the tobacco leaf. Additionally, deforestation is also caused by the paper used in wrapping, packaging, as well as advertising cigarettes. A manufacturing machine uses more than six kilometers of paper in an hour. Just imagine how many trees would it be.


The discarded butts can even pose serious health risks for pets, especially in parks and playground. It will only take 2 or 3 cigarette butts ingested by small pets to seriously harm or kill them. As there is no nutritional value, when the cigarette butts are eaten by pets, they would feel which can starve them to death. 

Production Waste

The manufacturing process of tobacco produces solid, liquid, and other airborne wastes. In 1995, the tobacco industry produced an estimated 2262 million kilograms of waste from manufacturing and 209 million kilograms of chemical waste.

The growing number of tobacco, the manufacturing of these cigarettes and smoking of cigarettes all affect negatively to the environment. We may have not realized it, but the effects of smoking are now all over us.


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