Compared to the sea level rising, global warming, overpopulation, species extinction, deforestation, and pollution, casual smoking seems somewhat trivial. Don’t get me wrong, smoking is terrible for you and you shouldn’t do it, but when people think about the consequences of smoking, they think of their health and the disturbing anti-smoking ads that run amuck on TV and YouTube. The ramifications of smoking far surpass the pack-a-day smoker and his own body.
According to Current Environmental Health Reports, an estimated 4.5 trillion of the annual 6 trillion cigarettes sold worldwide don’t end up in the trash or ashtray, which sooner or later end up in our water supply anyway, but flicked onto the street or sidewalk. In the US, 110 million pounds of cigarette butts are littered each year. This wouldn’t be as big of a problem if the butts were biodegradable, but alas, the plastic in the cigarette butts survive for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Birds and sea creatures found belly up are filled with cigarette butts in their stomachs. The animals think they’re full because of the butts, so they starve to death, let alone the effects of the nicotine and harmful chemicals in the butts.
Smoking hurts our wallets as much as is it does the environment. In major cities and municipalities, butt clean up can cost between 3 million and 16 million dollars. Even if you don’t smoke, you’re going to pay for cigarettes. Sure, it might knock off some of the stress of your everyday life but in the end, it hurts you, the people around you, and the environment.
And those anti-smoking ads I mentioned earlier? You’d think that tobacco companies hate those companies. They don’t. Because they pay for them. The 1998 Master Settlement Agreement requires tobacco companies to pay for anti-smoking ads; in return, anti-smoking groups can’t condemn the actual tobacco companies. And the political clout of tobacco companies is nothing to make light of. In the 2013 to 2014 election cycle, the top 20 tobacco lobbies donated over $1.6 million dollars to federal candidates.
The simplest solution would be to stop smoking, but we’ve been trying that for generations. Making cigarettes without filters would be better for the environment, but worse for smokers. We could develop a filter that is biodegradable, but I doubt that cigarette companies would pay for that. Hopefully, people will see that smoking hurts more than themselves and they’ll quit. We can do something or we can ignore it. But cleaning up the oceans and streets would cost a lot of money and I still have to go pick up another pack. The point is, cigarettes are one of the many things that are destroying the environment and time is ticking. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. At least it’ll be better for the environment.