5 Shocking Facts about Cigarette Butts and Litter

by Dr Antonio Howell, MD

in Blog

Dr. Howell

Cigarette butts stay in the environment for as long as other forms of plastic do.


One of the major concerns of environmental groups is the effects of cigarette butts and litter to the ecology. Contrary to what many people believe, cigarette butts aren’t biodegradable. They are formed using cellulose acetate – a type of plastic that is composed of harmful chemical compounds. Here are some important facts about cigarette butts and litter:

1.  Cigarette filters take many, many years to decompose.

Depending on the weather condition and other environmental factors, a single cigarette filter may take 8 months to 10 years to decompose. But it’s not the worst part. Until the filter has not thoroughly decayed yet, it continues to release harmful chemicals such as tar that harm our health, and poison animals. These compounds also pollute the air, water, soil and plants.

 2.  Cellulose acetate fibers contain 12,000 fibers each.

This form of plastic used in tobacco products contains fibers that are thinner than a sewing thread. Each fiber is still consists of 12,000 fiber, making cigarette filters very hard to decompose.

3.  Cigarettes are a big threat to wildlife.


Clean Virginia Waterways, an environmental organization, conducted a study on cigarette butts and litter. They found that just one cigarette filter can be a threat to water fleas – tiny crustaceans found in saltwater and fresh water. During their investigation, they found cigarette butts in the stomach of dead water species. Thousands of fish die because they mistakenly ate cigarette butts. Fish that survived, yet have ingested some of the chemicals in tobacco can become a threat to humans as well as we eat them.

 4.  There are trillion of cigarette butts found everywhere.

A single cigarette butt seems so small to notice but because there are millions of people who smoke, the litter adds up to the figure. And remember, it takes up to 10 years before each one of them gets decayed.


 5.  Cigarettes turn the environment to ashes.

Cigarette butts thrown to the ground and flown away to the forests turn tens of thousands of trees to ashes. Majority of forest fires have been caused by discarded cigarettes. In a report by the National Fire Protection Agency, 90,000 fires in the United States are caused by cigarettes. These fires destroyed hundreds of people and animals, and billions worth of properties.

Help Save the Environment, Quit Smoking Today!

Thousands of people are guilty of improper disposal of cigarette butts and litter. Some throw their cigarette butts just about anywhere, not thinking of where that small item will go and how many lives will be affected. You could pick up hundreds of cigarette litter everyday but that will not make a difference to change the worsening condition of our environment. But by quitting smoking now, you can save your life and at the same time, reduce the amount of litter you contribute to the Mother Nature. Tell your smoking friends and relatives to quit as well. Share the information you have here, and MAKE A DIFFERENCE.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

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