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The Most Common Type of Litter in the World

Do you remember the old Smokey Bear ads?  The campaign’s catch phrase was “Remember. . . Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires.”  Over the years, the Forest  Service has featured ads with adorable woodland animals reminding us to “Break your Matches, crush your Smokes, drown your campfires, and be careful with EVERY fire!” Over 70 years later, we must still be reminded of those basic fire prevention steps.

Unfortunately, tobacco waste is the most common type of litter in the world, and it can affect the likelihood of fires in your area.  Dropped cigarette butts have been the cause of many home and apartment fires, as well as some of the largest and most destructive forest fires. The potential for roadside fires caused by tossing cigarette butts out vehicle windows is sufficiently increased when there is dry weather and brush, along with light wind from passing motorists.  

Tobacco waste also has other consequences for the environment. The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 750 million to 1.5 billion pounds of tobacco waste are thrown away every year, and cigarette butts account for about 40% of all items collected in coastal and urban clean-ups. Every littered cigarette butt can take anywhere from two to twenty-five years to biodegrade. Cigarette butts are laced with chemicals including arsenic and heavy metals which can end up in the water supply, and is dangerous to animals, marine life and anyone who ingests them. In order to do your part in keeping the world clean, remember to toss cigarette butts into the proper receptacles and, most importantly, be careful with all potential fire hazards.  

If you’ve thought about quitting or are ready to quit, the Semper Fit Health Promotion Program is here to help you throughout the quit process. Call or click the contact information below to find out when the next available tobacco cessation class is available or to speak to a Health Promotion team member.

For more information, check out the following resources:

Smokey the Bear Official Education Site

Cigarette Butt Litter Fact Sheet

Cigarette Litter Prevention: Problem and Facts

Study: Can Cigarette Butts Start Brushfires?

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