Cigarettes not just bad for your health, they’re bad for the environment

Cigarettes are the most littered item on earth. (PRNewsFoto/
Cigarettes are the most littered item on earth. (PRNewsFoto/

Something that gets overlooked a lot about cigarettes — their effect on the environment.

An organization called, (Seems to be related to is highlighting the truly shocking and amazing impact cigarettes have on the environment — mostly from the filters being tossed away on the ground. The group is starting a campaign to the get the word out about the damage done from cigarettes, using a series of Internet memes to get its point across.

For instance, cigarettes are the No. 1 most littered item in the entire world resulting in 1.7 billion tons per year of trash in the environment.

That may sound like a shocking number, but keep in mind just how many cigarettes get smoked each year. In the United States alone, about 45 million people smoke. Say those 45 million people average roughly one pack a day — that translates into 900 million cigarettes a day and more than 300 billion cigarettes a year. And that’s just the U.S. It’s bad enough that that’s in the waste stream, but a lot of cigarette butts end up in the environment, not just landfills. Say just a measly 10 percent of those cigarette butts end up on beaches, parks and sidewalks — that’s 30 billion cigarette butts a year being dumped into the environment.

1.69 billion pounds of butts end up as waste each year. (PRNewsFoto/
1.69 billion pounds of butts end up as waste each year. (PRNewsFoto/

Other effects on the enviromment: One tree is chopped down to create just 15 cigarettes. Again, do the math — that’s 20 billion trees a year to feed the U.S.’s smoking habit.

Also keep in mind that the filters in cigarettes are not made of cotton like they appear. They are actually made out of plastic, which takes forever to break down in the environment.

The huge problem of littering is the biggest reason why smoking bans have been expanded to include many public beaches and parks. Smokers’ rights people go nuts over outdoor smoking bans, but my attitude is smokers honestly have no one to blame but themselves for the really massive cigarette butt littering problem on beaches and parks. I can find a million links online showing that cigarette butts are far and away the No. 1 trash problem on beaches. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 32 percent of the trash cleaned up on beaches is strictly cigarette butts.


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