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Do people know that cigarette filters are mainly composed of synthetic material? A representative survey of the German population (the DEBRA study)
  1. Daniel Kotz1,2,
  2. Sabrina Kastaun1
  1. 1Institute of General Practice (ifam), Addiction Research and Clinical Epidemiology Unit, Centre for Health and Society (chs), Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany
  2. 2Research Department of Behavioural Science and Health, Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care, University College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Daniel Kotz, Institute of General Practice (ifam), Addiction Research and Clinical Epidemiology Unit, Centre for Health and Society (chs), Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, Dusseldorf, Germany; daniel.kotz{at}med.uni-duesseldorf.de

Abstract

Introduction Most cigarettes are smoked with filters made of synthetic plastic, which are not fully biodegradable. Littering used cigarette filters (butts) represents a substantial environmental hazard. It is unclear if people, in particular smokers, know that filters consist of synthetic plastic.

Methods We used data collected in August/September 2019 from a representative household survey of the German population aged 14 years and over (wave 20 of the German Study on Tobacco Use; DEBRA). Respondents were asked: ‘The majority of smokers use cigarettes with a filter. What do you think these filters are composed of? (1) Mainly of natural material; (2) Mainly of synthetic material; (3) I don’t know what cigarette filters are composed of.’ Response option 2 indicated correct knowledge.

Results A total of 2066 people were interviewed, including 625 current smokers. The weighted response rate to option 2 (‘mainly of synthetic material’) was 34.8% (95%CI 32.7 to 36.9) in the total sample and 42.7% (95%CI=38.7 to 46.8) in the subgroup of current smokers. In the latter subgroup, smokers with low compared with those with high educational level were less likely to know that filters are mainly composed of synthetic material (OR=0.62, 95%CI=0.39 to 0.99).

Conclusions The majority of smokers in Germany does not know that cigarette filters are mainly composed of synthetic material. Our findings suggest a need for promoting awareness as well as knowledge of environmental health hazards of cigarette filters to the general population, and specifically to current smokers.

Trial registration number DRKS00011322 and DRKS00017157.

  • environment
  • public policy
  • packaging and labelling
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Footnotes

  • Twitter @daniel_kotz, @KastaunS

  • Contributors DK conceived the DEBRA study, contributed to the study design, analysed and interpreted the data and drafted the manuscript. SK coordinated the DEBRA study, codrafted the manuscript and interpreted the data. All named authors contributed substantially to the manuscript and agreed on its final version.

  • Funding This study was funded by the German Ministry of Health (Bundesministerium für Gesundheit, ZMVI1-2519DSM203).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The DEBRA study was reviewed by the ethics committee of the Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, Germany (ID 5386/R).

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

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