Cigarettes: 10 Reasons Why We Should Change the Way We Dispose of Cigarette Butts

High Tech High Blog Series: Blog 2 of 7

Everyone knows cigarettes are harmful-smoking is hazardous to human health. An additonal problem is that people rarely realize just how large their impact on the environment can be (especially for our beaches and oceans). The following list comprises facts and figures that we researched.

cigarettes toxin water pollutantAn estimated 45.3 million people in the United States smoke cigarettes.

Cigarettes are 100 percent non-biodegradable.

An estimated 1.69 BILLION POUNDS of cigarette butts end up as litter worldwide every single year. That is a mind boggling amount of cigarette butts, and a large amount of them will end up in our oceans through urban runoff. When cigarettes are carelessly dropped on the ground rather than properly disposed of, they get washed into storm drains when it rains, which lead directly to the ocean.

To say it simply: Cigarette butts kill sea life-whether it is death by ingestion or from toxic chemicals leaking into the water.

Cigarette debris is responsible for the death of one million sea birds and 10,000 mammals every year. Cigarette waste has huge environmental effects. Effects so large that it is hard to even wrap your mind around.

In 2013, volunteers collected 157,098 items of debris from San Diego beaches. Of that 157,098, a whopping 37 percent of every piece of trash collected was cigarette butts. 

Cigarette butts are so toxic (they contain over 4,000 chemicals that can be released into the environment) that it has been recommended by the Cigarette Butt Advisory Group that they be placed on the list of hazardous waste.

Cigarettes contain toxic chemicals including arsenic, acetone, bleach, and nicotine.

cigarette toxin water pollutantPeople rarely realize that when they drop a cigarette butt on the ground far away from the beach, it can still end up in the ocean.

Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the United State and the entire world.

To research and help prevent further pollution, a class of 50+ students from High Tech High school in Point Loma, California teamed up with San Diego Coastkeeper® to conduct the “Oceans Away Project,” a project designed to help inform the public of the consequences of their daily actions.