While most people recognize at least some of the negative health impacts of tobacco use, few people are aware of some of the other impacts from tobacco, including on the environment. With this in mind, and given Palau’s hosting the seventh Our Ocean Conference later this year, the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Palau and the Ministry of Health will observe World No Tobacco Day 2020 with a focus on the ocean environment. This year’s theme is Protect our Ocean and Marine Life – BUTTS OUT!
NOT SO FUN FACTS
- Cigarettebutts or filters are the most littered item on the planet.
- Cigarettes have been found in the stomachs of whales, birds, fish and other marine animals.
- Cigarette filters are made of plastic called cellulose acetate that is NOT biodegradable. The filter breaks up into microplastics that are toxic to aquatic micro-organisms.
- Cigarette filters that come from a smoked cigarette contain many toxins and carcinogens that exist in the tobacco including arsenic, acetone, bleach, acetic acid and nicotine.
- Unsmoked cigarette filters are also toxic. The cellulose acetate fibers are treated with titanium dioxide and over 15,000 of them are packed tightly together, using triacetin as a binding agent, to create a single filter. Most cigarette filters are surrounded by two layers of paper and/or rayon wrapping, which contain chemicals, such as glues to hold the paper together, and alkali metal salts of organic acids.
- The take home messages are that 1) toxins leach out of filters (smoked or unsmoked) and end up poisoning the water and marine life and 2) filters are made of plastic and become microplastics over time which may replace real “food” eaten by marine life and which we may end up consuming when we eat seafood.
So cigarette filters/butts are more than just unsightly trash on the streets, beaches, and waters; they negatively impact our environment and marine life. There is nowhere to dispose of this toxic litter on a small island without it impacting the environment. The best solution is to reduce tobacco consumption. Quit Now!