Many people believe that straws and plastic bags are the most polluting things. However, there is one thing that is even more polluted, which is the cigarette filters.
After smoking, cigarette butts including plastic filters are often thrown away indiscriminately. You can consider cigarette filters as the most discharged waste in the world. Elizabeth Smith, a tobacco control policy researcher at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), said: “Many smokers believe that filters are made of biodegradable materials.”
However, cigarette filters are often made from cellulose acetate, an extremely toxic plastic that can take up to a decade to decompose. Recognizing the dangers of cigarette filters, the European Union (EU) has issued many new rules applicable in the tobacco industry. Accordingly, cigarette manufacturers must contribute to the fund to clean up the filter everywhere. This is part of the EU initiative to reduce disposable plastic.
If you can’t solve the cigarette filter, it will be a terrible problem.
According to CNN, an estimated 6 trillion cigarettes are produced each year, and more than 90% of them contain plastic filters. So there will be about 1 million tons of plastic produced from tobacco.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), discharging cigarette butts and filters into the ground is one of the most popular forms of litter in the world. About two-thirds of the filters are thrown indiscriminately and irresponsibly. They are often trampled on sidewalks, then drifted down the drain and into rivers, streams, and oceans.
The Washington, DC-based Ocean Conservation Organization said new refining was the most commonly found waste in every annual ocean cleanup since 1986. The organization’s volunteers have confirmed cleanup. About 60 million filters have been removed since then.
It is worth mentioning that cigarette filters can “poison” the ocean ecosystem without our knowledge. When the filter decays, they release all the contaminants absorbed in the previous smoke, including nicotine, arsenic and lead into the water environment. These toxic substances will follow waterways and enter many marine organisms such as fish, squid, … and then go to the human table.
Thomas Novotny, a professor of global health research at the University of San Diego, said that the fish that were released into the water containing the cigarette filter died nearly half after four days. This result further shows the toxicity of cigarette filters.
What solution to replace cigarette filters?
Cigarette smoke contains about 250 toxic chemicals, including heavy metals, arsenic, and polonium-210, a dangerous radioactive material often used for assassination. Also, up to 69 compounds are considered the leading cause of cancer.
To address concerns related to lung cancer or disease, producers have been producing cigarette filters since the 1950s. However, by the mid-1960s, researchers discovered, the filter has removed chemicals such as tar and nicotine. These are two chemicals that create smokers’ satisfaction and addiction.
That is the reason why cigarette manufacturers still decided to keep the filter but designed to make it harder to filter nicotine. According to US scientists, this is a manufacturer’s marketing strategy that helps smokers feel more secure, but in the end, they are still inhaling a large amount of nicotine.
WHO thinks that this is an “island fire” behavior. Tobacco manufacturers are committed that cigarette purifiers benefit smokers’ health, but the results are the opposite. When there is a cigarette filter, the rate of lung cancer is significantly reduced, but people who smoke again have a higher risk of developing lung cancer called adenocarcinoma.
David Wilson, a lung researcher at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said: “The survival rate between the two types of cancer is nearly the same. Therefore there is no convincing evidence that the filter help prevents lung cancer better “.
In other words, the effectiveness of cigarette filters is not as high as advertised, while it also harms the environment.
Which solution helps avoid environmental pollution caused by cigarette filters
Some cities around the world have asked tobacco manufacturers to pay for sanitation and street cleaning funds. Many towns also prohibit throwing the filter head into the street, anyone who violates it will be fined.
Mervyn Witherspoon, a chemical researcher in cigarette filters, says the best solution is still to produce biodegradable filters. Witherspoon is currently an adviser to Greenbutts, a maker of cigarette filters made of natural materials such as flax, hemp, and cotton.
In October 2018, the European Parliament supported the proposal to force EU countries to eliminate 50% of cigarette filters made of plastic by 2025 and 80% by 2030. However, representatives of countries The EU has rejected this reduction target. Instead, they propose that tobacco companies be responsible for sponsoring advertising campaigns to raise awareness or collect filters that are harmful to the environment.
Policy experts and campaigners believe that to eliminate plastic cigarette filters from life, governments will have to join hands to create a mechanism of interconnection among countries in sanctioning. And limit the filter tip.