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Impact on Youth

  • Tobacco use in familyfriendly places such as playgrounds, parks and athletic events models unhealthy behavior and normalizes the use of tobacco.  When children see adults smoking, they see smoking as acceptable.
  • Discarded cigarette butts contain the tars absorbed by the filter and levels of bacteria from smoker’s mouths and lungs, thus posing a health hazard to small children who routinely tend to pick up items off the ground and place them in their mouths.  
  • American Poison Control Centers reported that over 5,400 children were poisoned by the ingestion of cigarette butts in 2008. 

Health Impact

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has classified secondhand smoke as a Class A Carcinogen placing it in the same category as radon, benzene, and asbestos. 
  • Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 substances, over 40 of which are known to cause cancer in humans and many of which are strong irritants. 
  • The Surgeon General has declared that there is no safe level of secondhand smoke. 7 Small amounts of secondhand smoke can trigger allergies, asthma attacks and other breathing problems. 
  • Because their lungs are smaller, children breathe in 50% more air pollution than an adult. They are more susceptible to the dangers associated with tobacco smoke even if outdoors. 
  • A person sitting or standing next to a smoker outdoors can breathe in wisps of smoke that are many times more concentrated than normal background air pollution levels. 
  • Stepping on cigarette butts can result in burns.

Environmental Impact

  • Cigarette butts are the most common form of litter.
  •  Nearly all cigarette butts are made up of plastic like cellulose acetate fibers and can take decades to decompose.
  • At beach cleanups, cigarette butts are the most common form of trash found. 
  • Within an hour of contact with water, cigarette butts can begin leaching chemicals such as cadmium, lead and arsenic into the marine environment. Cigarette butts have been found in the stomachs of fish, whales, birds and other marine animals, leading to ingestion of hazardous chemicals and digestive blockages.
  • Cigarette butts not properly extinguished can cause fires.  
  •  Clean up of tobacco litter from recreational areas is costly to taxpayers.