The UN Environmental Assembly adopted a resolution to begin negotiations in November 2022 on an international, legally-binding treaty to end plastic pollution. These treaty negotiations offer an important opportunity to improve the health of people while improving the health of the planet.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has correctly designated cigarette filters as a form of single-use plastic. One of the first orders of business for the International Negotiation Conference (INC) for the plastics treaty will be to consider a ban or strict regulation of all single-use plastics as a necessary measure to reduce pollution and save our oceans.
Cigarette filters, are the number one form of litter worldwide – 4.5 trillion are littered every year.
As part of Project Sunset – a global initiative to phase out the sale of commercial tobacco products – ASH is joining the UN Plastics Treaty negotiations as an organizing member of the Stop Tobacco Pollution Alliance (STPA).
A ban on filters would be one of the most impactful policies in the history of tobacco control. More than 98% of the cigarette market is filtered cigarettes, and it’s likely many people who smoke would quit rather than switch to filter-less cigarettes. Cigarette filters do not add any level of protection for the consumers’ health – that is a common misconception perpetuated by tobacco companies. Filters are particularly useful to the tobacco industry in making smoking initiation easier for children; meaning without filters, the tobacco industry’s ability to trap “replacement smokers” would diminish greatly. Countless lives will be saved.
At the same time, the environmental impact of a filter ban would be huge. Cigarette filters are plastic. They take many years to break down, and as they do, they release microplastics into the environment, mostly into water systems. Filters are full of toxins and carcinogens – a single cigarette butt in a goldfish bowl will kill the goldfish. The trade-off? There is none. Filters do nothing to lessen the harm from cigarettes, and in fact make things worse.
Stop Tobacco Pollution Alliance (STPA)
ASH is proud to be a founding and organizing member for the Stop Tobacco Pollution Alliance (STPA), a global coalition of public health organizations who recognize the crucial intersection of tobacco control and environmental health. STPA will actively participate in the UN plastics treaty negotiations from November 2022 through 2024 and remain active to ensure strong implementation of treaty measures that serve to reduce the tobacco epidemic and its toll on the environment.
Key Resources from STPA
- Journal Article: The ‘filter fraud’ persists: the tobacco industry is still using filters to suggest lower health risks while destroying the environment
- Blog: Global Plastics Treaty must align with Global Tobacco Control Treaty
- Infographic from STOP Partners: Cigarettes = Plastics
- The environmental argument for banning menthol cigarettes
- Calculating the potential environmental impact of a menthol cigarette ban in the USA – Article, Infographic, Q&A
- Infographic: Environmental Benefits of a US Menthol Cigarette Ban
- Tobacco and the Environment – ASH Overview
- Environmental Disaster: Tobacco farming, production, use and disposal
Amplify on Social Media
Share your support on social media by using #PlasticsTreaty #INC1 #PlasticPollution in combination with the resources above and the graphics below.
Tag ASH here: @ASHorg on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok. @ASHglobalAction on Facebook.
Tag GGTC here: @TheGGTC on Twitter and Facebook.