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Earth Day: Kicking Butts Out of US

Cigarette butts are the most littered item worldwide. Smokers litter cigarette butts rather than disposing of them properly 65% of the time, which results in approximately 845,000 tons (1.69 BILLION pounds) of cigarette butts as toxic trash each year.

Data shows that “in 2010, over one million (1,181,589) cigarettes or cigarette filters—enough to fill 94,626 packs—were removed from American beaches and inland waterways.” Cigarette related litter is an enormous problem, both in the United States and worldwide.

Littered cigarette butts are not just unsightly, they’re unhealthy. A single cigarette butt in a liter of water containing minnows is toxic enough to kill half of the fish within 96 hours. See study here> Hazardous chemicals including arsenic and lead leach into water and soil and are often ingested by wildlife and pets, not to mention small children, who suffer serious health problems as a result.

There are several new laws designed to help solve this problem. One approach is to create more smoke free environments, including smoke free beaches and parks, that, among other benefits, help prevent litter in these locations. These laws have a big impact: smoke-free beach laws help reduce butts on beaches by 45%, according to the National Audubon Society.

Another approach is to create or increase penalties and enforcement for anyone who litters a cigarette butt. A recent update to Illinois’ Litter Control Act will subject anyone who tosses a cigarette on the ground to increased penalties. The first offense is a class B misdemeanor and a fine up to $1,500. The second offense is a class A misdemeanor, and the third offense is a felony that can carry a one to three year jail sentence and up to a $25,000 fine. See the act here>

Some states are considering a different tactic. New York has pending legislation that would prevent anyone from selling cigarettes in the states unless the cigarette and filter are biodegradable. See the legislation here: New York>).

California has proposed legislation that would prohibit the sale of single use filter cigarettes. See the legislation hereCalifornia>.

If you live in New York or California, please contact your representatives and encourage them to vote for these measures.

New York– contact your state assembly member to encourage them to vote YES on Assembly Bill A206-2013- here>

California– contact your state assembly member to encourage them to vote YES on Assembly Bill 1504- here>

Everyone Else– contact your state delegate to encourage them to take action against toxic cigarette waste.

*The Maryland legislature was considering a bill on this issue in their 2014 Spring Session. Please contact your MD representative, and encourage them to support biodegradable cigarette legislation when the legislature is back in session.

Please leave a comment below, or continue the conversation with ASH on Facebook or Twitter.

Thank you for taking action, and Happy Earth Day!