As we drive around town on a balmy summer night enjoying the moonlit sky, listening to the ball game on the radio, and smoking a cigarette, how many of us throw our asses out the window when we? have finished? According to the Truth Initiative, there are many of us. The tobacco awareness group says cigarettes are at the top of the waste list in the United States. And globally, 4.5 trillion cigarettes are thrown away each year. While smoking is incredibly bad for our health, filters are incredibly bad for the environment.
Almost 98% of cigarette filters are made of plastic fibers. And the substance, cellulose acetate (it takes 12,000 strands to make a filter), only degrades under certain conditions – such as when it accumulates in sewage. When filters are thrown on the beach or on the street, they can take years to break down. And, according to the Truth Initiative, cigarette butts leach toxic chemicals, like arsenic, which can leach into the environment, damaging fragile ecosystems.
Filters have no real benefit, some experts say, because they don’t block all of the bad chemicals in smoke, and some state legislatures seek to ban them. In 2014, this space called to ban cigarette filters and we reaffirm this position.
the Connecticut River Stormwater Committee, made up of 20 local towns, together with UMass / Amherst, has launched a public awareness campaign. The campaign will feature decals on municipal trucks with an image taken by a Florida Audubon member showing a bird feeding cigarette butts to its chicks. “Fish mistake cigarette butts for food. Birds take cigarette butts for food, ”said Patty Gambarini, senior environmental planner for the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, which meets and does the administrative work for the watershed committee.
Several New York lawmakers are calling for a ban on filters. State Senator Liz Krueger and several colleagues recently presented the Tobacco Product Waste Reduction Act.
“Cigarette butts are everywhere – litter our streets, parks and waterways, and spread plastic pollution and toxic chemicals into our environment and our food supply,” Krueger said. “The evidence is clear that despite all the Big Tobacco propaganda, filters don’t make cigarettes safer, and they can in fact make cigarettes even more deadly.”
Massachusetts lawmakers are expected to push for a similar ban.