Cigarette filters are the most polluting items of all
My first attempts at stopping to smoke
I started smoking when I was around 20 years old. Over the years I would choose lighter cigarettes as I could not stand the taste of the heavier ones. 3 times I tried to stop. The first time was when working on the island of Gran Canaria. I wanted to learn how to do deep-sea diving.
My instructor was a Dutch guy who told me while I was struggling in the swimming pool, sportspeople do not smoke. Well, that sank in and I stopped. I had my real diving experience, but as the season ended, they sent me somewhere else and I started to smoke again.
While I was working as a tourist guide on the Costa del Sol, my boss said I could not stop and we made a bet. I won, but it only lasted for 3 months. In 1981, they diagnosed my fiance with lung cancer.
They operated him in Finland and when he came back to Spain; he told me he had received strict orders to stop smoking. I also stopped. He, sadly, died in 1982 and I was very upset and started again.
Later on, in life, I did my regular checkups, and they were ok so I saw no reason to stop. In 1998 I renovated the house and decided the house was a no-smoking zone, I allowed no one to smoke inside. Whenever visitors decided they had to have a cigarette, they had to go outside and I would join them. From that moment onward, not one cigarette has been smoked in my house.
Starting a new life
In June 2015 I started a new relationship with Michael who lived in the U.S. He was addicted to his Soda Pops just as I was to my cigarettes. He came to visit me in September of the same year. I think it was some months later when he told me he had stopped drinking those unhealthy sodas.
That impressed me quite a bit. I was invited for a 3 week holiday to the US in May 2016 and I surprised him for his birthday with ” I have smoked my last cigarette one week before Christmas 2015″. Since then, I have not smoked. I have not really missed it, so it was not too difficult.
A couple of times I have experienced a very vivid dream. I would light a cigarette and would tell myself in a loud voice, hey, I do not smoke anymore. That would wake me up and I realized it was a dream, probably a warning.
The dangers of smoking for your health
By now I think the entire world is aware of the dangers smoking has for our health. Tobacco is actually the least dangerous part. There are many chemicals added to the cigarette. In 1994, American tobacco companies submitted a list of 599 additives added to cigarettes to improve the taste and thus increase their marketability.
The chemicals were all previously “approved” as a food additive, but only in their natural state. It is because the chemicals undergo physical and chemical changes under heat that make smoking so dangerous.
According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, there are over 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke. Included in this list are nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, arsenic, and DDT.
This list continues and includes known cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene, 2-naphthylamine, 4-amino biphenyl, chromium, cadmium, vinyl chloride, ethylene oxide, and the list goes on.
When I look at this list, I now wonder why I ever had to smoke. I am happy I stopped, even if it was late in life.
Do not miss the following video. It explains what smoking does to your health, unmistakably.
Amazing numbers of smoking people
Worldwide there seem to be over 1 billion people who smoke, 800 million are men. This data brings us to what this post is about. Smoking is not only dangerous for people but poses a genuine threat to the environment. Nearly 98% of cigarette filters are made of plastic.
I thought that plastic bottles, plastic bags, and plastic straws were the major culprit of pollution, but now I found out that it is cigarette filters. Since the 1980s this one item is responsible for 30 to 40 percent by volume of the annual coastal and urban cleanups. As some 4.5 trillion cigarettes are smoked each year, the discarded filters form literally mountains of plastic waste.
Filters are not biodegradable
Cigarette filters do not decompose well at all. It can take 9 months if the conditions are favorable, but otherwise, it takes much longer. The material they make these filters of, cellulose acetate, is not biodegradable, so when you throw your spent butt out on the street, it will just lie there to be swept up by city cleaners.
A discarded butt thrown on the highway or in nature is a serious fire hazard and many wildfires are started simply by accident, causing millions of $ (or euros) and death to many of the native inhabitants.
Stricter rules in Europe
Something else one should not forget is that those butts leach toxic chemicals into the environment. Arsenic and lead are a few of these dangerous substances which pollute our land, water, and air. This should not be hard to understand, after all, they design the filter to remove particulates and some chemicals from the tobacco smoke, so where else will it go?
The European Union has come up with new rules which oblige the tobacco industry to financially participate in the cleaning up effort. That will be a big effort when you look at the data. Of the 6 trillion cigarettes manufactured each year, 90% have plastic filters. Just try to visualize one million tonnes of plastic.
A big cleanup on the beach
In 2018, the Ocean Conservancy’s International Beach Cleanup made a list with the top 10 items collected. On top of the list were cigarette butts followed by food wrappers. Then came plastic beverage bottles and plastic bottle caps.
The other top ten items included plastic grocery bags, other types of plastic bags, straws and stirrers, plastic take-out boxes, plastic lids, and foam take-out boxes. This was a beach cleanup action, and one should realize beach-goers left the litter.
It involved an emeritus professor of global health at San Diego State University in a rather sad study. Cigarette butts were soaked in water and then were removed. They then placed fish in this water and half of them died after 4 days.
An excellent solution to the pollution by plastic cigarette butts would be to find a biodegradable substitute. The company Greenbutts has developed a filter made of natural materials such as flax, hemp, and cotton. That obviously is a big help, and one can only hope companies will start using these filters in the future.
There is too much plastic use in our life, and that plastic will convert most of the time into waste. What can one do with all that plastic waste? Luckily there are many ways to recycle this waste and make it into useful things. I came upon this post where it is explained nicely. How about Bluetooth Loudspeakers? Clean the environment and make something useful out of plastic waste.
Personally, I am happy that I stopped smoking some years ago. I do not pollute myself anymore and neither the environment. What about you?
I have made a special page for you. It holds a collection of things you might find interesting. Have a look at Recommendations before you leave.
Source: CNN, article by Sarah Lazarus, January 25, 2019
Photo Source: Pixabay
I have written more posts on plastic pollution. It is a worldwide problem. Perhaps you like to read the following post.
Hi Taetske, I must say that this article is very helpful and informative. I completely agree with you and you explained everything well regarding cigarettes but I think people are not yet aware how dangerous they are for human health. Luckily, I am not a smoker but my family is and I can’t explain to them that they should leave smoking, it’s like some sort of obsession.
Good Morning Daniel,
Thank you for your visit and leaving a comment. Nice to see you again.
Yes, smoking can become an obsession, I know that from experience. When suddenly you notice there are no more cigarettes in the house and the tobacco shop is closed because of a holiday. Then it can get rather stressful.
Let us hope your family will understand one day how bad smoking is for their health and the environment so they will stop.
I congratulate you especially for being able to stop smoking. Not many have been able to achieve that. It baffles me why the addiction is always difficult to overcome. Hmm. I never knew there were so many chemicals in cigarettes. Just imagine the damage it does to one’s health and environment. I really don’t understand the essence of producing cigarettes anyway. Thank you so much for sharing this. I really hope that this saves the life of someone.
Good Morning Owillz,
Thank you for your comment. I hope you downloaded your free PDF?
The tobacco industry is huge so a lot of money is made with producing cigarettes. Then Big Pharma earns a lot of money when people get sick, it is a never-ending cycle.
I am happy I could finally stop and wish I had understood earlier in my life.
I don’t smoke. I know smoking is bad but I didn’t know that cigarettes butts were not biodegradable. I thought the filter was made of paper and easily biodegradable. So it’s not only about the filter but also about the residue on itself.
We don’t really realize what can affect our environment. Sometimes it’s just the little things that we dismiss.
Thanks for this information.
Good Morning Adyns,
Yes, for me it also was an eye-opener to discover how badly cigarette butts pollute the environment. Having smoked all these years I had no idea. There you see one is never too old to learn something new.
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I’m sorry to hear about your difficulties with stopping smoking, despite many very convincing reasons to want to stop… and glad that you were finally able to stop fairly recently. Your story is similar to my mom’s, who only finally stopped when she was diagnosed with a kind of blood cancer… and stopping smoking really helped her, since she is still alive…
But on to what attracted me about your article. I totally agree with you that cigarette butts are an awful polluter! They have bugged me for a really long time, and finally your article gives some explanations as to why! I didn’t realize that the filters are not biodegradable, that they are made of plastic while I was thinking they were made of paper, or if I try to guess better, foam…
I wonder now how polluting are e-cigarettes?! Have you done some research on that? Thanks
Good Morning Phil,
Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. I hope you downloaded your free PDF?
Better late than never. I am also lucky as apparently, I have no health consequences of all the smoking I have done in my life.
You ask about e-cigarettes, well, the news is not good. It seems they are really bad so it is not a good idea to go from smoking normal cigarettes to e-cigarettes. I am forwarding a link with more information.
First of all, sorry for your loss. One of the reasons why keep going back then was you have not found your own genuine reason to why you have to stop. You only stopped based on what people told or because of someone or something that you need to achieve temporarily.
Indeed, tobacco smoking is dangerous for one’s health, even though the effect is an accumulation in the long term run. l an in a country where most of the population smokes. It is true that cigarette filters are the most pollutants than other pollutants. This particular country in winter, it is worst because the snow is everywhere and it’s difficult to gather them together and clean. Thank you for the awareness
Good Morning Augusta,
Thank you, that is kind of you. I lost my fiance in 1982 and still miss him. Luckily it does not hurt anymore as it did in the following years.
You are right, the reasons why I stopped seemed to be important but in the long run, did not help to stay away from this bad habit.
I was also surprised to find out that cigarette butts are on the top of the list as the world polluters. Who would have thought that? The more I find out about these things the more amazed I get as we are the ones who pollute the environment which is our habitat, sad but true.
Thank you for leaving a comment. I hope you downloaded your free PDF?
Interesting article, but my main complaint is that once you start listing statistics, I think you need to add more links to source information. When I read someone say that something accounts for 30-40% of the volume of trash in cleanups and provide no attribution, it makes me question whether it’s really a fact or just a made up number to sound impressive. I appreciate that you do have some links, but in this day and age of made up journalism, I know I want more.
Otherwise, congratulations on finally quitting smoking! I need to do that one of these days. (On the other hand, when I finish a cig, I “strip” it and put it into my pocket until I get to a trash can.)
Good Morning Jason,
Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I hope you downloaded your free PDF?
Good to hear you keep the butt of your cigarette till you find the right place to dispose of it. Here in the south of Spain, they have started to talk about smoke-free beaches, well, let’s see if that happens. I do think we are all responsible for our own trash.
The article I read on CNN was the trigger for me to write this post. As you said, there are links, 6 in total. Personally, I am not too fond of posts which are very blue, I would not click on all the available links. If I only see one here and there I tend to click more often.
I think if somebody is really interested in the topic they will then do their own more in-depth research.
I think when smokers see that they are not only killing themselves gradually but the environment, they would realised how bad it is to smoke. But why am I saying this when majority knew the consequences behind it yet t they still won’t stop? I must congratulate you for your decision and descipline to quit smoking. If many can handle it this way, there would be less smokers in the society. Plastic is known for it high disaster on the environment and am so worry hearing that cigarettes filter is also part of the plastic pollution. I think government should turn blind eye to the revenue they do get through cigarettes and ban it completely. Since it has many disadvantages than the benefits it can bring.
Good Morning Stella,
That the government should turn a blind eye on the tax money they obtain from tobacco and ban smoking completely would be s a good idea but will they? I do not think so. We still live in a free world so that would be intruding in your privacy. If then they should ban fast food and polluted air, no more cars, etc so we all would be healthier. Then again the healthcare system would collapse. We should all start from the beginning and ban all man-made things, back to nature. I wonder how many people would follow that idea.
I was not aware that cigarette butts form such a big part of plastic pollution. Having 2 websites has opened my eyes to a lot of things I did not know about and it has changed my world view quite a bit.
Thank you for your comment. I hope you downloaded your free PDF?
I started smoking when I was 17 and in high school. Back then, smoking was very cool and widely accepted. When I was 19, a friend and I decided to drive from Vancouver to Montreal to visit “Expo 67”. On the way back home we were broke and needed to find work. We ended up working in the Tobacco fields of Alliston, Ontario. After the first full day of priming(picking)tobacco, our arms were covered in black nicotine tar from fingertips to shoulders. You would think that would have convinced me from stopping smoking, but it didn’t. I enjoyed it too much.
I discovered that the one true way of giving up on this insidious habit was to have the desire to do something that outweighed the “feel good” benefits of smoking. Over the next 8 years, I tried many times to quit for no particular reason and of course, it never lasted. That all changed when I decided to run a marathon when I was 27. As soon as I tried to run I realized how smoking was holding me back. The next day I quit smoking even though it was still very much in vogue and cigarettes were still advertised on T.V. as being very cool. There were no dire warnings coming from anywhere.
That’s why I was particularly proud of quitting that day on my own accord. I quit because I wanted to run more than I wanted to smoke. That’s what cured me of smoking, not advertisements that told me it was bad for me. That was 43 years ago and I have not had a cigarette since that day.
I have discovered that the best chance people have of quitting is to find something they want to do more, but smoking is in the way. Like living for instance. If their doctor says they will die very soon if they continue smoking, it is often the catalyst a person needs to convince themselves to butt out and become part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
The problem, as you pointed out, is about much more than the personal harm it causes, but also the damage it does to the environment and more importantly, the people around you.
Good Morning Ray,
Thank you for visiting my website and leaving a comment. I hope you downloaded your free PDF?
When the reason is good, for yourself as what people will tell you does not work, stopping to smoke is easy. It is like turning a switch. Fantastic you stopped so many years ago. As nowadays we already have to battle other things like bad air to smoke on top of that really does not help.
I do not know where you live but here in the south of Spain on my organic farm, the air is lovely. Now, it is a mystery why I ever polluted it with my smoking. For sure I am happy I got rid of that habit.
Having 2 websites I have become more aware of a lot of things which have to do with our health and environment. Seen on the whole the health of the human race is on the decline. The new generation, the young people with their smartphone pressed to their brain have a lower life expectancy than the previous generation. Then our environment which is our habitat is in a sorry state. Where will it lead to? I do not know but I am worried as it does not look good at all.
Hi Taetske. Very interesting article. I started smoking many years ago and to be fair, I never succeeded in quitting. I had several tries, but my record is three months without a cigarette.
Now Im trying again starting from Jan 2021, and hopefully it will go better. I always thought more about my health, but limiting pollution is another good reason to quit. Thank you for the great post!
Nice to see you again and thank you for your comment. I am curious, is Cogito really your name?
As I told in my post, I was successful in stopping to smoke after failing 3 times. Probably because love was in the air. What do you think? When I stopped I was not aware yet that cigarette butts are big polluters. Perhaps knowing this will be an extra reason for you to stop too. I hope you are successful this time.
This information is so true. I am a smoker. I have quit so many times and just keep falling back into the habit. Even knowing the harm it is causing to my health. I am very conscious of what I do with my butts. It is amazing the manufacturers have not been made to meet some kind of standards to force them to come up with a more green alternative to fiberglass or whatever it is they use to help filter the chemicals from entering your lungs as much.
I will say I can’t stand it when people just throw them on the ground. I can only imagine what their yard looks like. like you said they don’t just go away. They are not biodegradable. It is so easy to extinguish your smoke and put the butt in a container or even your pocket until you get to the nearest trash receptacle.
Being a smoker and realizing the nastiness of the habit, one of the things I do is in my vehicle, I never use the ashtray. That is one of the most horrible smelling things in the world. I always keep a container, usually a water bottle that would have been thrown away or recycled with a little water in it. This is my ashtray. It puts out the fire and once it is full I make sure all of the butts are disposed of properly.
Keep helping the planet and people!
Good afternoon Chad,
Thank you for visiting my website and for leaving a comment. I hope you downloaded your free PDF? Tulip widget.
I used to smoke a pack a day. I never inhaled deeply. I never smoked in my bedroom and neither in a car. Still, I smoked too much in my life and am happy I got rid of that habit over 5 years ago.
Having 2 websites since the beginning of 2017 has opened my eyes to many things, be it health-wise or environmental. Fact is that humans have many harmful habits, bad for their health and the environment. I hope you will be able to get rid of smoking. From experience, I can tell you it is possible. By the way, when you don’t smoke anymore, your nose gets fine-tuned. You enjoy nice smells much more. You also realize that smoke stinks. Good luck.
I have suffered hardship as a non-smoker under the presence of smokers in the workplace, public places, restaurants, public transport …and the list goes on. Before all the laws came out about designated smoking areas, I suffered with bronchitis and colds from being in the same presence of those who didn’t care one iota of those around them who didn’t appreciate the filthy habit of smoking.
I salute you for taking a stand and speaking out and explaining why one should absolutely not be smoking.
Good afternoon, sorry, I do not know your name.
As an ex smoker, I fully understand when you tell me you suffered as a passive smoker. It is true it is a nasty habit and I am happy I quit. It harms our health and the health of the surrounding people, and on top it is bad for the environment.
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