Tobacco Free Beaches & Parks

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Not only do tobacco products devastate the human body, they cause havoc on the environment–ending up in our waterways, along beaches and in our parks. Cigarette butts account for an extraordinary amount of waste. An estimated 1.69 billion pounds, or 845,000 tons, of cigarette butts accumulate as litter in lakes, in oceans, on beaches and on the rest of the planet annually.1 Only 10 percent of cigarette butts are properly deposited in ash receptacles.2 In fact, cigarettes and cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world.3

Litter from tobacco products has been proven to be toxic, slow to decompose, costly to manage, and growing in volume—a trend that appears to be an unintended consequence of the increased prevalence of indoor smoking bans which are forcing more people to smoke outside.4 In 2009, more than 3 million cigarettes or butts were picked up internationally from beaches and inland waterways in just one day as part of the annual International Coastal Cleanup, including more than 1 million from U.S. beaches alone, making it by far the most littered item according to data from the Ocean Conservancy.5 Florida has an increased stake in reducing tobacco product litter, as our beaches, wildlife and attractions are part of an $82.6 million tourism industry.

Not only does cigarette litter impact our natural environments, it contaminates and harms the ecosystems within those environments. Cigarette filters have been found in the stomachs of fish, birds, whales and other marine creatures who mistake them for food, swallowing poisonous filters, harmful plastic and toxic chemicals.6 According to the UN International Maritime Organization, 177 species of marine animals and 111 species of shorebirds are affected by tobacco litter, causing unnecessary malnutrition, starvation and death.7

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  • More than 4.5 trillion cigarettes are littered worldwide each year. They are the most littered item in the world.8
  • An estimated 1.69 billion pounds, or 845,000 tons, of cigarette butts wind up as litter worldwide each year.9
  • Multiple litter studies show that when counting litter on a per-item basis, cigarettes and cigarette butts are the No. 1 littered item on U.S. roadways.10
  • Only 10 percent of cigarette butts are properly deposited in ash receptacles.11
  • Cigarette butts discarded in parks, along sidewalks, and in street gutters miles from the coast, inevitably make their way through storm drains, creeks and rivers to the beach and ocean leaking dangerous chemicals into our watershed.13
  • Cigarette filters have been found in the stomachs of fish, birds, whales and other marine creatures who mistake them for food, swallowing harmful plastic and toxic chemicals.14
  • According to the UN International Maritime Organization, 177 species of marine animals and 111 species of shorebirds are affected by tobacco litter, causing unnecessary malnutrition, starvation and death.15
  • Cigarette filters are made from cellulose acetate, a plastic which is technically biodegradable. However, cigarette butts only biodegrade under conditions described by researchers as “severe biological circumstances,” such as when filters end up in sewage. Even in these conditions, cellulose acetate filters are slow to disappear with the most optimistic estimate at nine months.16 17 18
  • In practice, cigarette butts tossed on streets and beaches do not biodegrade. The sun may break down littered butts, but only into smaller pieces of waste which become diluted in water or soil.19 20 21
  • A cigarette butt contains the remnant tobacco portion of a cigarette and 165 toxic chemicals.
  • A 2006 laboratory study found that cigarette butts were acutely toxic to freshwater cladoceran organisms and marine bacteria (microtox), and that the main cause of toxicity was attributed to nicotine and ethylphenol in the leachates from cigarette butts.22
  • Though few studies have examined the toxicity of cigarette butts to aquatic ecosystems, preliminary studies show that the chemicals that seep out of cigarette butts can be acutely toxic to fish and micro-organisms, and the main causes of toxicity are organic compounds (nicotine and ethylphenol) in the cigarette butts.23 24
  • In a recent laboratory study, one cigarette butt soaked in a liter of water killed half of the fish exposed.25
  • It takes the equivalent of one tree to produce 300 cigarettes.27
  • As of April 1, 2011, 105 municipalities across the country prohibit smoking on their beaches, while 507 municipalities prohibit smoking in their parks.28 29
  • An economic study based on a litter audit in San Francisco, which found the annual tobacco litter cleanup cost to be more than $5.6 million, led their City Council in 2009 to impose a 20 cent per pack “litter fee” on cigarettes sold in the city.30


References

1 New Jersey-based American Littoral Society, a coastal environmental organization.

2 iQ Research & Consulting. Keep America Beautiful Pocket Ashtray Study, January 2008

3 Cigarette Litter. 2007. www.cigarettelitter.org

4 For example, see “Fueling cigarette litter reduction effort” (2005); Atwater (2005); Jeff (2006); Johnson (2006); Moriwaki, Kitajima, and Katahira (2009b) 

5 http://www.oceanconservancy.org/our-work/marine-debris/icc_report.html

6 Roe, David. “Marine Debris: Killers in Our Oceans,” National Parks Journal Vol 51 No. 6 Dec 2007.

7 UN International Maritime Organization, 2003

8 Cigarette Litter. 2007. www.cigarettelitter,org

9 Novotny, T., “Cigarettes Butts and the Case for an Environmental Policy on Hazardous Cigarette Waste,” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2009

10 Beck, R. Final Report: Litter: A Review of Litter Studies, Attitude Surveys and Other Litter-related Literature. Keep America Beautiful, Inc. 2009; http://www.kab.org/site/DocServer/Litter_Literature_Review.pdf?docID=481.

11 iQ Research & Consulting. Keep America Beautiful Pocket Ashtray Study, January 2008

12 Surfriders Foundation. Cigarette Butt Litter, 2009. Web.” < http://surfrider.org/oahu/?page_id=331 >

13 For example, see “Fueling cigarette litter reduction effort” (2005); Atwater (2005); Jeff (2006); Johnson (2006); Moriwaki, Kitajima, and Katahira (2009b) 

14 Roe, David. “Marine Debris: Killers in Our Oceans,” National Parks Journal Vol 51 No. 6 Dec 2007.

15 UN International Maritime Organization, 2003

16 Ishigaki, T, Sugano, W, Nakanishi, A, Tateda, M, Ike, M, Fujita, M. The degradability of biodegradable plastics in aerobic and anaerobic waste landfill model reactors. Chemosphere. Jan 2004;54(3):225-233.

17 Ach, A. Biodegradable Plastics Based on Cellulose Acetate. J Macromol Sci Pure. 1993;30(9):733-740.

18 Degradability of Cigarette Tip Filters. 1991. Legacy Tobacco Documents Library. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/tvj95a99.

19 Novotny, TE, Lum, K, Smith, E, Wang, V, Barnes, R. Cigarette butts and the case for an environmental policy on hazardous cigarette waste. Int J Environ Res Public Health. May 2009;6(5):1691-1705.

20 Degradability of Cigarette Tip Filters. 1991. Legacy Tobacco Documents Library. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/tvj95a99.

21 Hons, N. Photodegredation of Cellulose Acetate Fibers. J Polym Sci Pol Chem. 1977;15:725-744.

22 Micevska, T, Warne, M, Pablo, F, Patra, R. Variation in, and causes of, toxicity of cigarette butts to a cladoceran and microtox. Arch. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 2006, 50, 205-212.

23 Micevska, T, Warne, MS, Pablo, F, Patra, R. Variation in, and causes of, toxicity of cigarette butts to a cladoceran and microtox. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. Feb 2006;50(2):205-212.

24 Register, K. Cigarette Butts as Litter-Toxic as Well as Ugly. Underwater Naturalist, Bulletin of the American Littoral

Society. 2000;5(2).

25 Slaughter, E, Gersberg, R, Watanabe, K, Rudolph, J, Novotny, TE. Toxicity of Cigarette Butts, and their Chemical Components, to Marine and Freshwater Fish. Tob Control. 2011;20(Supplement 1):i23-i27.

26 Slaughter, E, Gersberg, R, Watanabe, K, Rudolph, J, Novotny, TE. Toxicity of Cigarette Butts, and their Chemical Components, to Marine and Freshwater Fish. Tob Control. 2011;20(Supplement 1):i23-i27.

27 McLaren, W. (2007, February 27). Smoking: Environmental and Social Impacts. Retrieved October 2, 2008

28 American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation. Municipalities with Smokefree Beach Laws. Available online:

http://www.no-smoke.org/pdf/SmokefreeBeaches.pdf. 2011.

29 American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation. Municipalities with Smokefree Park Laws. Available online:

http://www.no-smoke.org/pdf/SmokefreeParks.pdf. 2011.

30 Schneider, J, Peterson, N, Kiss, N, Ebeid, O, Doyle, A. Tobacco litter costs and public policy: a framework and methodology for considering the use of fees to offset abatement costs. Tob Control. 2011;20(Supplement 1):i33-i37.