The Danger of Discarding Cigarette Butts in the Environment

The Danger of Discarding Cigarette Butts in the Environment
Improperly disposed cigarette butts are harmful to the environment and can kill marine life. WHO and UNEP launch awareness campaign.

Every year, the world's 1.3 billion smokers improperly dispose of approximately 4.5 trillion cigarette butts. These discarded butts often accumulate in parks, beaches, streets, and bus stations because of their small size and seemingly harmless appearance compared to other types of litter. Due to their small size, cigarettes are more likely to be improperly disposed of and are even known to make up around 20% of the debris collected during ocean clean-up efforts.

Chemicals leaked from cigarette butts may be toxic enough to kill 50% of both saltwater and freshwater fish exposed to them for 96 hours. This percentage was calculated through an experiment in which the butts were soaked in a liter of water for 24 hours. Furthermore, harmful chemicals ingested through microplastics can lead to the death of marine life including birds, fish, mammals, plants, and reptiles.

Subsequently, these microplastics enter the food chain and are associated with severe human health impacts, causing changes in genes, brain development, respiratory rates, and more.

As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Secretariat of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) are launching a social media campaign to increase awareness of this issue.

The Clean Seas campaign by the Environmental Agency is a global alliance made up of 63 countries, aiming to put an end to plastic pollution in our oceans. The initiative seeks to combine the expertise and resources of two organizations to address this worldwide issue.

This event will be based on the requirements of the European Union directive on plastic labeling.

This event will use social media platforms to attract influential individuals as well as goodwill ambassadors from the environmental agency and young earth advocates. The event will incorporate a political campaign angle by highlighting recent EU directives that require all tobacco products with plastic filters to be clearly labeled.

The World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Secretariat has technical expertise on the impact of tobacco products on human health and the environment," said Atif Butt, Director of Public Outreach at the Environmental Agency. "By combining the professional knowledge of the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Secretariat in the Clean Seas campaign against microplastics, we aim to emphasize the intrinsic connection between our health and the health of our planet," he said.


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