The dangers from smoking don’t stop once a cigarette is stubbed out. Cigarette butts leach toxic chemicals and carcinogens that pollute the environment. They’re poisonous to people, wildlife and can contaminate water. Yet they’re the number one littered item on US roadways and the number one item found on beaches and in waterways worldwide.
April 22nd is Earth Day, and in observation of this day, Leave No Trace continues our campaign with the American Legacy Foundation to rethink cigarette butt litter. We have put together a list of reasons to kick those butts, but not to the curb. These places should be butt-free every day because of the negative impact on the environment, various ecosystems, and ultimately our collective public health.
- In the forests – Animals are wildlife eaters and could ingest the toxins from cigarette waste if we’re not careful.
- Parks and playgrounds – Eliminating toxic butts from the reach of children is common sense. Kids could put these butts in their mouths, or play with them in ways you might not want them to.
- The ocean and other waterways – In 2010, more than one-million cigarettes were removed from American beaches and inland waterways during the International Coastal Cleanup. Leached chemicals from these products can damage aquatic ecosystems. The only butts on beaches we should see are not the ones from cigarettes.
- National landmarks and parks – America is beautiful. Let’s remember to keep it that way by tossing butts into bins.
- Your driveway – Cigarette butts on your driveway can end up leaching toxic chemicals into the soil of your front yard or into the water that impacts public water supplies.
- The road – Though you don’t want that cigarette polluting your car, you also don’t pollute the environment. It is not ok to throw that toxic butt out of the window.
We have all been entrusted to protect our planet, yet cigarette butts remain one of the only socially acceptable forms of littering left. The billions of littered cigarette butts annually amount to enormous environmental and public health threat that our communities are left to pay for. Let’s rethink cigarette butts this Earth Day and create a healthier world for the future.
Susy Alkaitis, Deputy Director for Leave No Trace