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Why Cigarette Butts Are Still Among the Worst Forms of Pollution

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

cigarette butts

Story at-a-glance -

  • For the first time in 30 years of collecting data, Ocean Conservancy finds plastics are the top 10 items in pollution around the world, with filtered cigarette butts ranking in first place. Although they appear to be biodegradable, they contain plastics that take up to 10 years to decompose
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) calls cigarette butts the most acceptable form of litter as 75 percent of smokers say they have thrown them on the ground or out their car window and studies estimate as many as 65 percent of butts are littered
  • Filters were added in response to research demonstrating smoking led to lung cancer; but after the industry found the filter also reduced smokers’ satisfaction, they altered the design in what the WHO calls fraudulent advertising and was ultimately little more than a marketing tool
  • The European Union is taking aim at plastic pollution responsible for damaging and killing aquatic life and ultimately ending up on your dinner plate. Consider taking steps to reduce your own impact by eliminating single use plastic, stopping smoking, and washing synthetic clothing less frequently

There are multiple reasons you should not start smoking, or you should quit. Despite decades of warnings by the U.S. Surgeon General, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to call tobacco the “single largest preventable cause of cancer and disease in the United States.”

Today, cigarette smoking kills more than 480,000 people every year and nearly 41,000 from exposure to secondhand smoke. There are short-term and long-term side effects. Smoking stains your teeth, changes your physical appearance and increases your risk of gum disease and tooth loss.


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