Facts about Cigarette Butts and Smoke
In addition to the harms of using tobacco, cigarette waste creates a hazard and expense. Know these facts:
- Most cigarette filters, the part that looks like white cotton, are actually made of plastic fibers (cellulose acetate) which can take up to 10 years to decompose!
- Toxic compounds in cigarette butts can include formaldehyde, nicotine, arsenic, lead, copper, chromium, cadmium, and a variety of polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
- Butt waste is everywhere: 99% of the 360 billion cigarettes sold have cellulose acetate (plastic) filters; at least one-third of those – 120 billion – are discarded into the environment. Washed into rivers, lakes and the ocean, and eaten by birds, animals and fish, they are the most littered item in the U.S. and the world.
- Butt waste is not biodegradable: Filters are non-biodegradable, and while ultraviolet rays from the sun will eventually break them into smaller pieces, the toxic material never disappears.
- Smoking-related debris is 1/3 or more of all debris items found on U.S. beaches and in rivers and streams.
- Cigarette butts leach organic chemicals and heavy metals into the environment that are toxic to fresh and salt-water fish.
- Cigarette butts make up 34 percent of the total litter collected in California.
- Cigarette waste is a significant contributor to storm drain trash.
- Discarded cigarette butts have been linked to wildfires, which result in the destruction of wildlife, vegetation and structures.
- California public agencies spend in excess of $41 million annually on litter clean up.