We know cigarettes are bad for your health, but it appears cigarette filters are the number one littered item on U.S. roadways and beaches all over the world. "Literally billions are introduced into the U-S environment every year," explains Dr. Cheryl Healton, President and CEO of Legacy, a non-profit environmental education organization. "So we're very concerned about that. And we know that it is harmful to humans. It's harmful to pets. It's harmful to animals. It's harmful to our soil and our waterways."
287 billion cigarettes were reportedly sold last year in the U.S., 3.9 billion in the state of Maryland alone. And an alarming number of the butts are ending up on roadways, beaches, and parks.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans die from cigarette smoke every year, but startling information released in the latest Legacy Environmental Impact survey shows dangerous heavy metals and other chemicals are in the leftover filters.
Which means the dangers may be much more far-reaching than originally thought. "When you add to that the deaths that are being associated to the chemicals that are being leeched into the environment by cigarettes and a bio-accumulating in our food," adds Dr. Healton, "it is almost impossible to actually estimate the ultimate toll of tobacco on our nation."
And cigarette butt cleanup is costly. The city of San Francisco recently conducted a cost analysis and found it costs them 5.6 million dollars each year to get rid of these filters. Cities here on the shore, may not have to pay nearly that much, but what ever the price, it's coming out of taxpayer pockets.
There are things that people can do to help raise awareness about this problem:
If you see cigarette butt litter, please take a photo and upload it to the Marine Debris tracker
Join a clean-up event, or download the toolkit for more information about organizing an event or building awareness in local communities
Visit www.legacyforhealth.org/environment to learn more and receive a free t-shirt for clean-up stories/photos.
Nearly 3 in 4 respondents for the Legacy survey say they believe smokers should be responsible for cleaning up their own cigarette butts. What do you think? Head to our Facebook page and let us know.