Researchers in the United States have called for a ban on cigarette filters in order to curb litter and prevent the environmental harm done by them.
Thomas Novotny of the San Diego State University and Elli Slaughter, researcher into the toxicity of cigarette butts, have highlighted the environmental harm done through the large-scale littering of cigarette butts, packaging and matches.
As part of a review article in Springer’s journal Current Environmental Health Reports they suggest cigarette filters should be banned and a deposit-return scheme for used butts should also be started.
The researchers also suggest manufacturers should be held responsible for clean-ups and warnings should be printed on packets about the impact of littering cigarette butts.
An estimated 4.5tr of the annual 6tr cigarettes sold worldwide do not end up in a dustbin or ashtray, according to the research, but are littered.
Novotny – “Tobacco waste products are ubiquitous, environmentally hazardous and a significant community nuisance… With two-thirds of all smoked cigarettes, numbering in the trillions globally, being discarded into the environment each year, it is critical to consider the potential toxicity and remediation of these waste products”
The ban on indoor smoking may have exacerbated this, the research suggests.
Tobacco waste products contain the same toxins, nicotine, pesticides and carcinogens found in cigarettes and cigars, and can contaminate the environment and water sources. Plastic cigarette filters are almost non-biodegradable and can leach chemicals for up to ten years, according to the researchers.
They labelled filtered cigarettes a “farce” in terms of consumer safety, with a recent National Cancer Institute review showing that these are not healthier or safer than non-filtered ones. Novotny and Slaughter therefore propose a ban on filtered cigarettes.
Novotny and Slaughter ask for new partnerships between tobacco control and environmental groups, proposing the tobacco industry be held legally responsible for clean-up and nuisance costs associated with their products, advocating the use of labels on cigarette packages about the toxicity of discarded butts, and a deposit-return scheme similar to that used for glass and metal beverage containers.
Other options include requesting the industry to pay an advanced recycling fee or to take back all discarded tobacco waste products.
“Tobacco waste products are ubiquitous, environmentally hazardous and a significant community nuisance,” says Novotny. “With two-thirds of all smoked cigarettes, numbering in the trillions globally, being discarded into the environment each year, it is critical to consider the potential toxicity and remediation of these waste products.”