Summer means outside activities such as, hiking, biking, kayaking, boating, and enjoying many local festivals. Participating in any of these events also means you probably come across the most littered item in the world, cigarette butts. Even though smoking traditional cigarettes is at an all-time low, smoking is still the number one cause of litter. It is estimated that 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are thrown away every year worldwide. Unfortunately, with the rise in popularity of vaping, amount of litter created from tobacco products is growing. There are two issues that arise from tobacco litter; the first is that tobacco litter is not completely biodegradable. Tobacco filters are made of small plastic strands wrapped in paper. The filters can take up to seven years to break apart. Once this happens the dangerous chemicals that the filter caught from the smoker inhaling is released into our environment, which is the second issue of tobacco litter. Of the 7,000 plus chemicals that are potentially caught by the cigarette filter, 69 have been found to be cancer causing. Vaping adds a whole new type of tobacco litter, as the refillable bottles that e-juice comes in and the containers for e-cigarettes such as JUUL are made of plastic.
The issue of tobacco litter has caused many outdoor areas, venues, and workplaces to establish tobacco free policies. Tobacco free policies have many positive effects beyond eliminating tobacco litter. These types of policies also protect people from secondhand smoke exposure, encourages current tobacco users to quit and sets a positive message to young people that tobacco use is not the norm. If you use tobacco, please be aware of how beautiful our outdoors is in Allegany County and properly dispose of your litter. For more information on tobacco free polices please visit Tobacco Free WNY.