Think Before You Flick...

alexandra vrabec

Take your butts with you please...
Tossing a cigarette butt on the ground has become one of the most accepted forms of littering globally and borders on a social norm for many smokers.
Thousands of smokers don't think twice about leaving a trail of cigarette litter behind them (and if you smoke and you take your butts with you, I thank you over and over again for doing this).  But this is for the smokers who don't... and I must admit that I was one of them too, a long time ago.
Although less people are smoking now, cigarette butts continue to be the most commonly littered item.  Just go to any park bench and you will see.  It's easy to overlook them as you are walking.
I walk by this bench everyday with Yuka (Tecia follows as well) and they're easy to miss if you're not actually staring down at the ground.  There is definitely a lack of availability of waste receptacles at transition locations, such as outside stores, building, transportation pick ups and park benches.  If smokers can spend upwards of $15 on a pack of cigarettes, they can surely spend $10 on a portable ashtray, no?
The core of most cigarette filters, the part that looks like white cotton, is actually a form of plastic called cellulose acetate.  It will take up to 10 years for this filter to decompose in the environment.  But that's not the worst... used cigarette filters are full of toxins (over 7000 toxic chemicals) that can leach into ground and waterways, damaging living organisms that come into contact with them.  Most filters are discarded with bits of tobacco still attached to them as well, further polluting out environment with nicotine, which is poisonous.
Toxin-filled cigarette butts work their way into our waterways primarily through storm drains that dump into streams and lakes.  One cigarette butt in 7 litres of water is lethal to water fleas.  Cigarette filters are a threat to wildlife as well that could ingest them, mistaking filters for food.
Discarded cigarette butts along highways and forested areas create forest fires that are killing off our wildlife and vegetation that will take hundreds of years to return.  Humans have been responsible for more than 400 BC wildfires so far this season  (23% of these caused by cigarettes).  Wildfires also emit greenhouse gasses, damaging forests that would otherwise emit carbon dioxide into the air, warming our planet and injecting soot and other aerosols into the atmosphere.  Below is an image of the Shovel Lake wildfire near Prince George, burning over 92,000 hectares in 2018.
Cigarette butts are the biggest contaminant of the oceans, even more so than plastic.  If we are banning plastic straws, why can't we ban these?  They damage habitats, poison fish and cost tax dollars for cleanup and disposal.  A campaign called the Cigarette Butt Pollution Project hope to eradicate tobacco waste from the environment.  According to the project, out of the 5.6 trillion cigarettes made with cellulose acetate filters, almost two-thirds are dumped irresponsibly.
I welcome your comments please :)

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