Cigarette Butt Litter: Another Danger of Smoking Cigarettes

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Avoid cigarette litter tragedies by properly extinguishing cigarette butts and educating others about the dangers of improperly disposed cigarettes. More than 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered in our parks, sidewalks and public places annually. Through properly educating others about the damage caused by cigarette butts, nonsmokers and smokers can join forces to save wildlife and prevent serious fires.

Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the United States; more than 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered in our parks, sidewalks and public places annually, according to Keep America Beautiful.

Casually flicking a cigarette butt out of a car window or tossing aside a cigarette while walking can cause significant harm to the environment; imagine the compounded effect of 4.5 trillion cigarette butts.

Most cigarette filters are not biodegradable as many people presume-95 percent of filters are made of plastic cellulose acetate and take many years to decompose. Cigarette litter is not just an eyesore; it causes significant fire and environmental damage.

Cigarette butts that aren't properly extinguished can -- and do -- start fires. The following cigarette litter tragedies could easily have been avoided:

  • In March 2004, cigarette butts tossed in a jammed trash chute in Richmond, Virginia, destroyed 26 buildings and caused $20 million in damage.
  • In September 2002, a wildfire that scorched 247 acres on the Camp Pendleton, California base was started by a cigarette butt tossed by a passing motorist.
  • In January 2001, a motorist driving along Interstate 8 in San Diego County flicked a cigarette butt onto the center median, sparking a fire that burned more than 10,000 acres, destroyed 16 homes and charred 64 vehicles.

To make matters worse, improperly distinguished cigarette butts harm birds and other small animals. 165 chemicals in cigarettes are mistaken for food and ingested by birds and animals, which can lead to starvation or malnutrition if the butts block the intestinal tract and prevent digestion, or accumulate in the digestive tract, making the animal feel full and lessening its desire to feed.

Cigarette litter tragedies could be easily avoided if people paid the same attention to cigarette disposal as they do to throwing away other trash. You can make a difference in reducing the effects of cigarette litter whether you're a smoker or not.

If you are a smoker, always carefully extinguish your cigarette... never flick a lit cigarette butt. Also consider using a pocket ashtray. These ashtrays are very thin, foil lined and trap the smell inside. You can also use film or mint containers as improvised storage until you can properly dispose of the cigarette butts later.

If you do not smoke, help educate others about the dangers of improperly disposed cigarette butts.

Through educating others about the damage caused by cigarette butts, nonsmokers and smokers can join forces to save wildlife and prevent serious fires.

To do even more, visit CharityGuide.org for more volunteer opportunities related to animal protection and environmental protection.

Charity Guide is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting flexible volunteerism, by inspiring and facilitating acts of kindness. For more information about Charity Guide and opportunities to make a difference, please visit our Web site at http://www.charityguide.org or contact us at Questions @ CharityGuide.org.

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Susan White
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