4.5 Trillion Cigarette Butts
That’s how many are littered each year around the world. Cigarette butts are toxic to our oceans animals and to us.
These days everyone knows that smoking cigarettes is not healthy for your body, but the knowledge of what butts do too ocean animals is less common. Cigarette filters are made of cellulose-acetate, which is not biodegradable. A one liter bottle with one cigarette butt was on display at the annual “By The Sea” Arts & Seafood Festival held in Coffman Cove, Alaska. According to San Diego State University Public Health Professor Tom Novotny, “Even one butt in a liter of water can kill the fish in a period of 96 hours.”
The 5th annual Arts & Seafood Festival was held in Coffman Cove, Alaska, Friday, August 12th and Saturday, August 13th. “The mission of the festival is to celebrate our marine-based lifestyle with an authentic seaside fair. In bringing together gifted local vendors and performers with local and visiting patrons. The festival seeks to promote support for the arts and to create a sustainable market for the Prince of Wales Rainforest Artists and Artisans. It also promotes fish enhancement so that tomorrow’s harvest will be as fine and plentiful as the benefit we enjoy today. The Arts and Seafood Festival is a proud host of the Prince of Wales Farmers Market providing consumers an ever-expanding opportunity to buy wholesome, locally-grown foods and products.” The description quoted from the festival Facebook page is “capturing the furtherance of, increasing the awareness in, and sharing the importance surrounding our Rainforest Islands Arts and Oceanic lifestyle”.
Tammi Meissner, SEARHC Tobacco Policy and Health Educator hosted a booth at the festival focused on the consequences of cigarette butt litter in the ocean with handouts and laminated visuals such as “The Cigarette Butt Cycle by A Greener Future”. She also had a hands-on interactive tidal animal tank, where children and adults could pick up or observe starfish, crabs, muscles, eels, hermit crabs, snails, etc. The hands-on tank was a big hit. It provided a visual and tactical interactive display that led to conversations, on the cycle of how cigarette butts toxins can be ingested by ocean animals, whole or through particles, over the years as butts breakdown. Ocean animals like crabs and salmon can then filter toxins into their systems and transmit the toxins to humans when the animals are eaten. Over time these toxins can affect human health.
It is time to stop the “Butt Cycle.” There needs to be a shift in individual and collective thinking to classify cigarette butts as toxic waste and they should be disposed of in a way that does not hurt our environment.
Article by Tammi Meissner, POW and Wrangell Health Educator and Tobacco Policy
Ed Joyce, KPBS News, 5/1/09
The Cigarette Butt Cycle by A Greener Future
Contact information for the “By The Sea” Arts & Seafood Festival in Coffman Cove, AK:
Address: PO Box 18047, Coffman Cove, Alaska 99918 Phone: (907) 329-2233