The tobacco epidemic takes a toll on all of us. Inflated health care costs and lost productivity affects both people who smoke, and people who don’t. The dangers from second-hand smoke, and possibly vape residue, can cause harm to people who don’t use those products. Another cost we all bear from nicotine addiction is the environmental burden from the devices that deliver nicotine: cigarettes and vaping devices.
Trillions of cigarette butts are tossed into our environment each year. Not uncommonly people will remark on the unsightliness of a pile of filters, but less recognized are the real harms to our world. Filters from cigarettes have been the leading cause of plastic pollution around the globe. They take years to break down, and when they do they become microplastic particles which are an insidious hazard to both land and aquatic ecologies. The butts are also laden with toxic metals and other harmful chemicals. Studies have found that one cigarette butt in a liter of water can kill half the fish in that liter.
Vaping devices are a newer, but increasingly significant, environmental problem. E-cigarettes include a heating element, a battery, a mouthpiece, and a pod or cartridge that holds the e-juice. The toxins in the e-juice contain various toxins. These toxins are no doubt growing as an environmental threat as are the plastic, metal, or other compounds from the device components.
What can we do? As a start the FDA has issued guidance for the disposal of e-cigarettes. If you or others are getting rid of these devices, and we hope you are, dispose of them safely.
And as a proposal to save our environment from cigarette butts, how about we ban filters? There is no evidence that filters have saved one life or prevented one illness. They are a sham to imply a healthier product; a sham which is strangling this world we all love and need. Why should we have them? No filters might mean that a few more people think about quitting, or others don’t start smoking. Seems like a win-win to me.
I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on this.