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Cellulose acetate cigarette filter is hazardous to human health
  1. Thomas E Novotny,
  2. Laila Hamzai
  1. School of Public Health, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Thomas E Novotny, School of Public Health, San Diego State University, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, CA 92182-4162, USA; tnovotny{at}


The World No Tobacco Day 2022 theme emphasised tobacco’s adverse environmental effects, including through agriculture, manufacturing, distribution, use and the disposal of tobacco product waste. A main concern regarding this toxic waste is the cigarette filter, which is attached to nearly all commercial cigarettes and is predominantly made from a plant-based plastic (cellulose acetate). Laboratory studies have demonstrated the chemical toxicity of discarded cigarette butts, and there is growing public concern regarding environmental plastic pollution resulting from single-use cellulose acetate filters. Important considerations are whether the filter has any protective role against the harms of smoking and whether it should be regulated as a plastic environmental pollutant. There is persistent misunderstanding among smokers and policy makers about the implied value of the cigarette filter. The cellulose acetate filter is simply a marketing tool that encourages smoking initiation and reduces intentions to quit smoking. This is because it makes smoking easier and implies added safety through the presumed filtration of inhaled smoke. The sale of filtered cigarettes should be prohibited to protect public health and the environment.

  • Environment
  • Global health
  • Public policy
  • Tobacco industry
  • Toxicology

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  • Contributors TEN conceived the general subject matter for this Special Communication. LH conducted the initial research and drafting of the article. TEN edited, contributed additional material and finalised the submission.

  • Funding Funding for this work was provided by the California Tobacco Control Program of the California Department of Public Health under contract number 20-10206. TEN and LH also receive funds from the University of California Tobacco-related Disease Research Program. TEN has received funding from WHO, the Truth Initiative and the US Food and Drug Administration (as a Westat subcontract).

  • Competing interests None declared.

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