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Geographic patterns of cigarette butt waste in the urban environment
  1. Maacah Marah,
  2. Thomas E Novotny
  1. Graduate School of Public Health, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Maacah Marah, Graduate School of Public Health, San Diego State University, Hardy Tower 119, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, CA 92182-4162 USA; marah{at}


Background This reports the initial phase of a study to quantify the spatial pattern of cigarette butt waste in an urban environment.

Methods Geographic Information Systems (GIS) was used to create a weighted overlay analysis model which was then applied to the locations of businesses where cigarettes are sold or are likely to be consumed and venues where higher concentrations of butts may be deposited. The model's utility was tested using a small-scale litter audit in three zip codes of San Diego, California.

Results We found that cigarette butt waste is highly concentrated around businesses where cigarettes are sold or consumed. The mean number of butts for predicted high waste sites was 38.1 (SD 18.87), for predicted low waste sites mean 4.8 (SD 5.9), p<0.001.

Conclusions Cigarette butt waste is not uniformly distributed in the urban environment, its distribution is linked to locations and patterns of sales and consumption. A GIS and weighted overlay model may be a useful tool in predicting urban locations of greater and lesser amounts of cigarette butt waste. These data can in turn be used to develop economic cost studies and plan mitigation strategies in urban communities.

  • Geographic information systems
  • cigarette filters
  • cigarette waste
  • environmental waste
  • environment
  • smoking topography
  • tobacco products

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See: and

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  • Competing interests None.

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