STOP, an anti-tobacco organisation in Ireland on Wednesday said that the world’s 1.3 billion smokers “improperly dispose of” an estimated 4.5 trillion cigarettes each year.
This makes cigarette butts the most littered item on the planet.
STOP, is an organisation funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and is a partnership including the University of Bath in Britain and the Bangkok-based Global Centre for Good Governance in Tobacco Control.
STOP said tobacco is not only grown on deforested lands but its production degrades soil and pollutes air, land and water.
It added that flood is “only a portion of the environmental harm caused by the tobacco industry’’.
According to the organisation, billions of trees are chopped down each year to make cigarettes, accounting for five per cent of global deforestation.
It added that cigarette butts make up around 20 per cent of debris gathered during ocean clean-ups.
Chemicals leaching from a cigarette butt could be toxic enough to kill 50 per cent of the saltwater and freshwater fish exposed for 96 hours, going by experiments cited by STOP that saw butts soaked for 24 hours in one litre of water.
According to STOP, the damage is likely to get worse as vaping, or smoking e-cigarettes becomes more popular.
It warned that waste from the vaping devices could be “a more serious environmental threat’’ than cigarettes, as it “contains metal, circuitry, single-use plastic cartridges, batteries and toxic chemicals in e-liquids’’.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), apart from damaging the environment, smoking kills around eight million people a year worldwide and incurs significant health-care costs.