"Many smokers assume that filters are made of a biodegradable material," said Elizabeth Smith, who works with tobacco control policy at the University of California San Francisco.
In fact, filters are made from cellulose acetate – a type of plastic that can take up to ten years to break down.
But now the EU is breaking this hidden problem. New rules will require the tobacco industry to finance the purification of cigarette stubs as part of a broader initiative to reduce disposable particles.
Cigarette filters poison our environment ̵
1; but do everything to help smokers & # 39; lungs?
Scope of the problem
About 6 trillion cigarettes are produced a year, and over 90% of them contain plastic filters. It's more than a million tons of plastic.
Throwing a cigarette stub on the ground is one of the most accepted forms of waste, according to the World Health Organization. Ca. Two-thirds of the mouthpieces are dumped irresponsibly – stumped onto sidewalks or fell into the grids, from where they are transported via storm drains to streams, rivers and oceans.
Cigarettes have become the first thing gathered by Washington DC-based Ocean Conservancy's global beach cleanup every year since the initiative began in 1986. Its volunteers have accumulated more than 60 million shots.
Nick Mallos, director of the group's Trash Free Seas program, says "many of those found on beaches are simply left by beachgoers."
A recent study put fish in water where the cigarette stumps were soaked and removed. After four days, half of the fish was dead, showing that cigarette lumps "seep into the aquatic environment and are toxic and lethal to living creatures," said Thomas Novotny, Emeritus Professor of Global Health at San Diego State University, who was involved in the study.
Plastic filters were invented in the 1950s in response to lung cancer fear.
Tobacco smoke contains approx. 250 harmful chemicals, including heavy metals, arsenic and polonium-210, a strong radioactive substance that has been used in murder. At least 69 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer.
Filters were designed to reduce lung cancer by blocking toxins.
However, in the mid-1960s, scientists realized that tar and nicotine they tried to filter out were the substances that caused cigarettes to satisfy smokers.
Companies kept filters, but made them less effective in allowing through this hit of nicotine.
Bradford Harris dug deep into the tobacco company archives while a graduate student in history and technology at Stanford University. He writes that tobacco companies decided to keep the filters as a "marketing tool" while smokers still got the decisive nicotine hit. They claimed health benefits from filters called "Deceptive" by the World Health Organization. CNN contacted the Tobacco Producers' Association, which represents a number of major tobacco companies in the UK, but did not receive replies.
In fact, while filters blocked some toxins, they also made cigarette smoke smoother to breathe, and it encouraged smokers to breathe more often. Filters also changed the way tobacco burns, actually increasing some toxins in the smoke.
With filtered cigarettes, the rate of the most common type of lung cancer caused by filter-free smoking decreased.