As we near Earth Day on Sunday, it is important to realize that one of the smallest and most commonly littered items is also one that causes enormous harm.

Cigarette butts are the most commonly discarded piece of waste worldwide, and they’re not biodegradable. It is estimated that 1.69 billion pounds of cigarette butts become toxic trash every year. Cigarettes contain 7,000 chemicals. This hazardous material can persist in the environment for 5 to 10 years. These chemicals can contaminate water and harm our environment.

Cigarette butts can be ingested by aquatic creatures, wildlife, and pets. These also pose harm to small children who may see them at a park or on a playground and pick them up not realizing how harmful these small items can be. A recent study showed that cigarette waste easily meets standardized tests for city and state agencies to label a substance as toxic waste.

The environmental impact of tobacco products is another reason to continue comprehensive tobacco prevention and control efforts. Let’s work together to help Knox County be free of cigarette butt litter.

If you are ready to quit tobacco, talk with your healthcare provider, and call the Indiana Tobacco Quitline (1-800-QUIT-NOW) for free help.

Russell is the program coordinator for the Knox County Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Coalition

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