Harmful Effects of Cigarette Litter

By Rachel Grubbe

Cigarette litter is a HUGE problem. But, how can that be?... Cigarette butts are so small. Cigarettes are the number one most littered item in the world! Cigarette litter makes up 38 percent of all collected litter. So, what’s up with that? Why are so many smokers tossing their cigarette butts on the ground?

Keep America Beautiful reports that 77 percent of people don’t even consider cigarettes on the ground to be litter! Cigarette litter is so common it almost seems that they are part of the natural environment. But, we are here to tell you that cigarettes on the ground  are, without a doubt, litter.

So what will happen if I throw a cigarette butt on the ground? Short answer, nothing. Seriously, nothing will happen to it, it will never biodegrade. Although, cigarette butts appear to be made of cotton, they are actually made of plastic fibers. Organic decomposers have no ability to breakdown plastic. So, those little cigarette filters will hang around for the rest of the earth’s existence.


The most important fact to remember about litter is that it will not stay where you put it. Cigarettes contain toxic waste, and once that waste is introduced to the environment, it will contaminate the water. Runoff carries litter from the streets, to the storm drains, to our lakes and rivers. The substances that leach out are causing damage to plants and animals, harming the delicate ecosystem we rely on for life.

Throwing cigarettes on the ground is dangerous. If a cigarette is not put out then tossed away it becomes a fire hazard. Approximately 90,000 fires are started by cigarettes each year. Almost every roadside fire is caused by cigarette litter. Smoky the Bear does not approve.


So, lets think about it. Cigarettes on the ground are harmful, dangerous, and ugly. That’s litter! We have all seen it; driving down the road and someone flings a cigarette out the window. It drives us at KBB crazy!

At Keep Blount Beautiful, we have both car and pocket ashtrays for you to use to prevent cigarette litter. Just let us know if you would like one!