May 11th, 2011 by Richard Lord
Legacy which works to stop Americans smoking states that smokers in the USA light-up more than 360 billion cigarettes each year. Another website states that globally humans smoke 15 billion cigarettes every day. It is estimated that over 5.6 trillion cigarettes are thrown out into the environment each year.
According to Legacy, smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the USA and cigarette ends are the number one litter item found on beaches and in urban environments. Legacy’s research seems to hold true for Guernsey as well.
Since a ban was imposed on smoking in public indoor areas, cigarette ends seem to have become more noticeable on Guernsey streets. Cigarette ends are particularly numerous in areas outside some offices and in car parks were cigarette smokers may empty their car ash trays. Cigarette ends can be found under benches in some of Guernsey’s most idyllic spots overlooking some of Guernsey’s most spectacular scenery.
Every few feet cigarette ends lie by the side of Guernsey’s main roads where street cleaners cannot reach because of the speed of the traffic or because of parked cars. Cigarette ends lie in clumps of grass and weeds growing by the side of the pavement.
Heavy rain may carry these cigarette ends into storm drains, and into streams where they may end up on the Guernsey shore.
Research published in April 2011 demonstrates the negative impact that cigarette filters and discarded cigarette ends have on the environment. “Cigarette ends contain heavy metals that can leach into waterways, posing a threat to aquatic life,” the research found.
The Legacy report states “it is a common assumption that since tobacco is organic, its waste is harmless. However, research confirms that both the plastic filters and the remnants of tobacco are poisonous to children and other living organisms. These waste products contain nicotine, heavy metals, and other toxic chemicals that leach into the environment,” said Tom Novotny, Professor of Global Health in the Graduate School of Public Health at San Diego State University.
Beaches are not immuned from cigarette litter. Some smokers use the beach as their ash tray and the sand as their cigarette stubber.
As part of the international coastal clean-up by voluntary organisations in 2010, almost two million cigarettes and cigarette ends were recorded from beaches and inland waterways but many more were unrecorded. In one laboratory test, a cigarette end soaked in a litre of water was lethal to half the fish exposed.
The Legacy report states that cigarette ends can take years to degrade. They break-up into small particles of plastic and toxic waste. Cigarette litter costs local authorities large sums of money to clean-up.
The States of Guernsey Health and Social Services Department through Quitline works to reduce the number of Guernsey smokers. For those who continue to smoke there must be a way to prevent cigarette ends littering our beautiful island.
Cigarette end receptacles provided by pubs and other businesses are not adequately used.
Mark Armen in the USA is working to solve the problem of cigarette end litter. He has designed The Bait Tank.
His website states that “38% of cigarette litter occurs because there is no nearby receptacle and the remaining 62% occurs because the person has no awareness or motivation.”
The Bait Tank is designed to attract and to educate. “In one study, The Bait Tank helped reduce cigarette end litter by 60% in one month and reduced city employee workload.”