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Consumption and production waste: another externality of tobacco use
  1. Thomas E Novotnya,
  2. Feng Zhaob
  1. aOffice of Global Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, bJohns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland
  1. TE Novotny, Office of Global Health,
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, K01, 4770 Buford Highway NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30341–3717, USA;Tnovotny{at}bellatlantic.net

Abstract

OBJECTIVE To describe the waste produced by and environmental implications of individual cigarette consumption (filter tips, packages, and cartons) and tobacco manufacturing.

STUDY SELECTION All available articles and reports published since 1970 related to cigarette consumption and production waste were reviewed.

DATA SOURCES Global cigarette consumption data were used to estimate cigarette butt and packaging waste quantities. Data from the Center for Marine Conservation’s International Coastal Cleanup Project were used to describe some environmental impacts of tobacco-related trash. Data from the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Toxics Release Inventory and reported global cigarette consumption totals were used to estimate waste production from cigarette manufacturing.

DATA EXTRACTION AND SYNTHESIS In 1995, an estimated 5.535 trillion cigarettes (27 675 million cartons and 276 753 million packages) were sold by the tobacco industry globally. Some of the wastes from these products were properly deposited, but a large amount of tobacco consumption waste ends up in the environment. Some is recovered during environmental clean-up days. For the past eight years (1990–1997), cigarette butts have been the leading item found during the International Coastal Cleanup Project; they accounted for 19.1% of all items collected in 1997. The tobacco manufacturing process produces liquid, solid, and airborne waste. Among those wastes, some materials, including nicotine, are designated by the EPA as Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) chemicals. These are possible environmental health hazards. In 1995, the global tobacco industry produced an estimated 2262 million kilograms of manufacturing waste and 209 million kilograms of chemical waste. In addition, total nicotine waste produced in the manufacture of reduced nicotine cigarettes was estimated at 300 million kilograms.

CONCLUSIONS Laws against littering relative to cigarette butts could be better enforced. Additional taxes might be levied on cigarette products that would then be directed to environmental clean-up efforts. The tobacco industry should improve the biodegradability of filters, reduce packaging waste, and educate its customers. Worksites and public buildings should be encouraged or required to supply appropriate disposal mechanisms at all building entrances. Public awareness campaigns about the magnitude and prevention of cigarette consumption waste could be developed through partnerships among environmental groups, health organisations, and environmental protection agencies. Tobacco production waste should be a source of concern and regulation by governments throughout the world; it contains numerous chemicals which may be considered health hazards, not the least of which is nicotine produced in the manufacture of low-nicotine cigarettes.

  • tobacco waste
  • litter
  • environmental impact
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