Cigarette butts on the beach

Maurizio Distefano | Dreamstime.com

Why Your New Year's Resolution Should Be to Quit Smoking

It is known as the world's most littered item for a reason

December 21, 2018

Did you know that in the last 32 years more than 60 million cigarette butts have been collected along our world's beaches?

Related: Cigarette Butts Are the Greatest Threat to Our Oceans

Yuck! In fact, it's such a problem that many environmentalists say cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world. And to make matters worse, most of the 5.6 trillion cigarettes made around the world each year come with filters that can take 10 years or more to fully decompose. Luckily, there are companies out there developing organic cigarette filters that can quickly decompose in soil or water. 

The other issue is big tobacco. Not that the world's biggest tobacco makers haven't tried to promote environmentally-friendly ways of throwing out cigarette butts, but it's hard for cigarette filter bans to gain much traction when lawmakers weigh the health risks against the environmental risks. For instance, a California assemblyman recently proposed a ban on cigarettes with filters. Unfortunately, he couldn't get the proposal out of committee. The problem is simply that big tobacco would argue that filters are part of a built-in safety mechanism designed to regulate a smoker's intake.

Additionally, in New York, a state senator recently brought up a cigarette rebate program. That idea stalled, sadly. San Francisco has so far gotten the closest, creating a $0.60 fee per pack to help fund the cleaning of chucked butts.  

So while we all look to our New Year's Resolutions for 2019, perhaps we tout the environmental benefits of quitting smoking to friends and family with the habit. With nearly two million butts on our beaches a year, even the smallest reduction will go a long way.