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Journal article makes case for holding tobacco companies responsible for toxic waste

Tobacco producers should be held to the same environmental cleanup standards as other toxic waste products, according to a special communication published in Tobacco Control.

The article focuses on the environmental impact of cigarette butts and other tobacco product waste, and stresses the importance of “raising awareness about the environmental consequences of tobacco use.”


98 percent of all cigarettes contain plastic non-biodegradable filters

“Given the numerous toxic chemicals found in tobacco products and [tobacco product waste] and the ubiquity of [tobacco product waste] in the environment, a strong case can be made that product alterations as well as effective prevention, clean up and safe disposal efforts are badly needed to address the [tobacco product waste] problem,” according to the article, whose lead author is Clifton Curtis, acting CEO of the Cigarette Butt Pollution Project.

“In this context, there is much to learn from environmental policies for other toxic waste products, such as obsolete pesticides and their containers, medical waste, and unused paints. Disposal of such substances into municipal landfills or incineration is generally recognized as unsafe.”

The authors argue for an approach that shifts primary responsibility for cleaning up tobacco product waste to tobacco producers, including take-back programs, collection services, and disposal. “These and other related services should be paid for by tobacco producers,” the authors said.

Key takeaways


6.3 trillion cigarettes were consumed globally in 2012


98 percent of all cigarettes contain plastic non-biodegradable filters


Every year, 1.69 billion pounds of cigarette butts end up as waste


The Ocean Conservancy estimated that it has picked up 52 million cigarettes over the course of 27 years

TAGS: environment