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, sports people do not smoke. Well, that sank in and I stopped. I did have my real diving experience but as the season ended I was sent 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, my fiance was diagnosed with lung cancer. He was operated on 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, no one was allowed 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 that 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 my self 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 whole world is aware of the dangers smoking has for our health. Tobacco is actually the least dangerous part. There are numerous chemicals added to the cigarette. In 1994, American tobacco companies submitted a list of 599 additives added to cigarettes to try 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 more than 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-aminobiphenyl, 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.
Amazing numbers of smoking people
Worldwide there seem to be more than 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 real threat to the environment. Nearly 98% of cigarette filters are made of plastic.
I thought that plastic bottles, plastic bags, and plastic straws where the main culprit of pollution but now I found out that it is cigarette filters. Since the 1980’s 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 these filters are made 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, the filter is designed 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 and 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 the litter was left by beach-goers.
An emeritus professor of global health at San Diego State University was involved in a rather sad study. Cigarette butts were soaked in water and then were removed. Fish were then placed in this water and half of them died after 4 days.
A good 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 material 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?
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 also read the following post.