Written by Ivey Ingalls-Rubin
Here’s a common misconception: Cigarette butts are biodegradable. Here’s the truth: They aren’t.
The plastic present in cigarette butts takes years to fully break down. Smokers on our campus truly don’t realize that their action of tossing these butts out has such a negative impact on our beautiful environment.
The myth of biodegradable butts has been perpetuated not just by the wishful delusions of many smokers but also by tobacco companies who have taken extreme length in keeping loyal customers. It’s common to see signs with messages like “No Littering” in highly littered areas; however, you won’t find such a message on any pack of cigarettes.
My best guess as to why this simple, though profoundly meaningless, statement doesn’t appear is because corporations would much prefer a blissfully ignorant customer coming back than risking taking any sort of action against the harm they’re causing. It might be because cigarette company executives think correctly disposing cigarette butts would lead to less people smoking. They ought to give their customers the benefit of the doubt.
Littering and smoking certainly don’t have to be synonymous by any means. What happens to a cigarette butt after it’s been flicked out a window, on a nature trail or on a beach? Typically the elements, whether it is wind or rain, will take hold of it. They’ll give it a lift, possibly to a water supply where the toxic chemicals the cigarette filter was supposed to trap will ooze into aquatic ecosystems, threatening the purity of the water and many aquatic life forms. Why should fish suffer the consequences of laziness and negligence?
Cigarette butts may seem quite small, but when several million people are smoking and several trillion butts merely get tossed out every year, the toxic chemicals add up.
If you’re going to make the personal choice of smoking cigarettes, that’s fine. However, show the responsibility and respect you have for the environment and your peers. Throw your butts away. Don’t just toss them out.