What would be the impact of cigarette smoking on the environment?
Tobacco doesn’t just negatively impact the health of individuals, it also endangers the health of the environment. When e-cigarette and cigarette waste isn’t disposed of properly, it makes its way into the environment where it ends up polluting water, air, and land with toxic chemicals, heavy metals and residual nicotine. An estimated 766,571 metric tons of cigarette butts make their way into the environment every year. Additionally, in 2018, Americans generated 2.7 million tons of consumer electronic waste, including e-cigarette waste that ultimately ends up in landfills or incinerators.
The problem isn’t limited to cigarettes. Retail e-cigarette sales more than doubled, with a 122.2% increase in total units from September 2014—May 2020. This increase in single-use e-cigarette products will eventually become tons of e-cigarette waste as these products reach end-of-life. Disposing of e-cigarette waste in an environmentally safe and friendly way is a growing problem, especially given the rise of single-use and disposable e-cigarettes.
E-cigarette cartridges, such as JUUL pods, are single-use products that contain plastic, electronic and chemical waste and many of them may also end up as litter. Inexpensive, flavoured disposable e-cigarettes such as Puff Bar, which doubled their market share in just 10 months from August 2019 to May 2020, are gaining popularity and further contribute to e-cigarette waste
WHAT ARE CIGARETTES?
Cigarette filters are made from cellulose acetate, a plastic which only degrades under severe biological circumstances, such as when filters collect in sewage. In practice, cigarette butts tossed on streets and beaches do not biodegrade.
1-Under optimal conditions, it can take at least nine months for a cigarette butt to degrade.
2- The sun may break cigarette butts down, but only into smaller pieces of waste which dilute into water/soil.
3- Growing concerns over the impact of tobacco waste on the environment, as well as the substantial costs of cleanup, have prompted states, municipalities and institutions to enact a variety of policy actions. For example, 317 municipalities prohibited smoking on beaches and 1,531 prohibited smoking in parks as of October 2017.
4- Cigarette butts cause pollution by being carried, as runoff, to drains and from there to rivers, beaches and oceans.
5- Preliminary studies show that organic compounds (such as nicotine, pesticide residues and metal) seep from cigarette butts into aquatic ecosystems, becoming acutely toxic to fish and microorganisms.
6- Approximately 600 million trees are chopped down every year by the tobacco industry. On average each tree produces enough paper for 15 packs of cigarettes.
7- Tobacco farming and the tobacco industry are a sizeable contributor to deforestation in many countries around the world.
-Tobacco manufacturers need to be held responsible for the extreme amounts of waste that their products create and to facilitate the environmentally safe disposal of their products — both combustible and electronic.
-Strong local regulations coupled with financial penalties to reduce the amount of e-cigarette waste are needed to reduce the negative environmental consequences from their products.
-Increasing consumer awareness of the environmental toxicity and dangers posed by discarding cigarette and e-cigarette related waste into landfills and encouraging smokers to quit using these products altogether are the best ways to protect the environment from tobacco product waste.