Tobacco Product Waste Reduction Toolkit (2013)

Author: Thomas Novotny 

Section 1: Introduction and Background

Cigarette butts are dropped on sidewalks in urban neighborhoods, in parks, beaches, and flicked from moving cars. Cigarette butts are the most common debris item collected from beaches and waterways during the annual International Coastal Cleanups, a status that has been maintained since 1986 (Novotny, 2009). In the United States, an estimated 326.6 billion cigarettes were sold in 2011 (CDC, 2012), and in California, approximately 2 billion cigarettes were sold in that year. It is estimated that 1 in every 3 smoked cigarette are discarded as environmental waste (City of Tacoma, Rath 2012). Cigarette butts are more than just unsightly litter and blight. Toxic chemicals are leached from discarded tobacco products and may then contaminate our streams, rivers, beaches, and urban environments (Slaughter et al., 2011). Cigarette butts contain all the carcinogens, heavy metals, pesticides, and nicotine that make tobacco use the leading cause of preventable death worldwide (Moerman, 2011, Sheets, 1991, Hoffman, 1997), yet they are commonly and unconsciously dumped by the trillions into the global environment each year. Discarded cigarette butts have been linked to wildfires, which result in the destruction of wildlife, vegetation and structures (National Fire Protection Agency, 2010).

Read more: California Department of Public Health, California Tobacco Control Program