Cigarette pollution

cigarette pollution

Cigarette filters – the worst product ever?

The size of cigarette filters, as well as their supposed objective of making smoking “healthier,” have concealed a harsh truth about their pervasive and detrimental environmental impact. These filters, comprising predominately of plastic known as cellulose acetate fibers, are a global menace that poses a severe threat to our ecosystems. 

5.6 trillion cigarettes are consumed annually by one billion smokers. As roughly 2/3 of cigarettes get disposed of inadequately, cigarette filters can unfortunately be found anywhere in the world. They are the most commonly found trash in nature. With the recent intensification of scientific research on the serious risks that microplastics pose to the health of our planet, the concerns about the negative effects of cigarette filters continue growing. Due to their loose chemical composure, cellulose acetate fibres decompose into microplastic particles much faster than most other types of plastic.

Unfortunately, the environmental impact of cigarette filters doesn’t end with litter. As the filters break down in the environment, they release harmful chemicals that contaminate soil and water, exacerbating the crisis. Every cigarette contains 7000 environmentally toxic chemicals, that can be released during the degradation of the filter, including heavy metals such as like zinc, cadmium or lead. These toxic chemicals are absorbed by tobacco plants and, eventually, through the decomposition of the filters enter the food chain and endanger the biodiversity. 

The presence of cigarette butts in the soil has been found to significantly reduce the success of plant germination and growth. A further study on the toxicity of cigarette butts for common freshwater and saltwater fish found that a concentration of one cigarette filter with rest tobacco per litre, soaked in water for 24 hours, was sufficient to kill at least 50% of both fish populations.  

The fundamental flaw in the marketing of filtered cigarettes lies in the false sense of security they provide to smokers. Smokers often mistakenly believe that filters purify the smoke, but the reality is quite different. Yet in 2017 the WHO confirmed their view that the tobacco industry’s claims that filtered cigarettes were ‘healthier’ were “fraudulent”

Further, they confirmed that as filters make smoking less harsh, they are likely to have increased both the risk of addiction, as well as the environmental burden of more and more microplastics in our environment. 

There is a growing awareness about the useless danger, that cigarette filter poses to both smokers directly, and the wider environment writ large. This has resulted in experts calling for an EU-wide ban on filtered cigarettes. 


  1. Distribute this information amongst your peers and raise awareness of the multi-layered toxicity of cigarette filters

and if you are a smoker, 

  1. ALWAYS carry a portable ashtray with you, to adequately dispose of filters 

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