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Tobacco and cigarette butt consumption in humans and animals
  1. Thomas E Novotny1,
  2. Sarah N Hardin1,
  3. Lynn R Hovda2,
  4. Dale J Novotny3,
  5. Mary Kay McLean4,
  6. Safdar Khan4
  1. 1Graduate School of Public Health, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, USA
  2. 2SafetyCall International, PLLC and Pet Poison Helpline, Bloomington, Minnesota, USA
  3. 3San Diego State University Research Foundation, San Diego, California, USA
  4. 4ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, Urbana, Illinois, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Thomas E Novotny, Graduate School of Public Health, San Diego State University, Hardy Tower 119, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, CA 92186, USA; tnovotny{at}


Discarded cigarette butts may present health risks to human infants and animals because of indiscriminate eating behaviours. Nicotine found in cigarette butts may cause vomiting and neurological toxicity; leachates of cigarette butts in aquatic environments may cause exposure to additional toxic chemicals including heavy metals, ethyl phenol and pesticide residues. This report reviews published and grey literature regarding cigarette butt waste consumption by children, pets and wildlife. Although reports of human and animal exposures number in the tens of thousands, severe toxic outcomes due to butt consumption are rare. Nonetheless, the ubiquity of cigarette butt waste and its potential for adverse effects on human and animal health warrants additional research and policy interventions to reduce the stream of these pollutants in the environment.

  • Toxicology
  • environment
  • public policy

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  • Funding This research was funded by the California Tobacco-Related Diseases Research Program Grant #17IT-0014.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.