The Earth is not an Ashtray

April 21, 2011

As we celebrate Earth Day on April 22, new research shows that cigarettes not only are a grave health hazard, but a serious threat to the environment as well.

Research funded by Legacy and published in the journal Tobacco Control shows that, “Tobacco is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States, and cigarette filters/butts are the No. 1 littered item found on beaches and in urban environments.”

Nearly 2 million cigarettes or cigarette filters and butts were picked up internationally from beaches and inland waterways as part of the annual International Coastal Cleanup in 2010.  That number includes more than a million from the United States.

Cigarette butts contain heavy metals that can leach into waterways, posing a threat to aquatic life. And poison centers report hundreds of cases of cigarette butt consumption among children under six, with some cases of nicotine poisoning reported.

But there’s growing momentum to keep cigarettes out of parks and beaches. As of April 1, 507 municipalities around the country have prohibited smoking in their parks, and 105 have passed laws prohibiting smoking on public beaches to reduce the harmful impact of cigarette waste.

Check out the commentary and research papers in Tobacco Control.