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The tobacco industry’s toxic product waste wreaks havoc on our environment

The tobacco industry wants us to believe that cigarette butts and vapes found on the ground are simply a litter problem. They want us to waste our time installing ashcans in our cities and having beach clean-ups.15161718192021 But what they don’t want us to know is that their products harm the environment long before anyone puffs a cigarette or hits a vape. The tobacco industry is a top global plastic polluter whose production and manufacturing directly contribute to climate change22 and deforestation.232425262728 And the toxic chemicals in their products make them nearly impossible to dispose of safely.293031323334 Bottom line: No one, and no place, is safe from Big Tobacco.
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The Little Big Lie

Cigarette butts are made of microplastics35 – tiny toxic fibers36 that pollute our environment and could harm us all.3738

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Tobacco industry’s damage

The tobacco industry currently spends billions each year on slick marketing tactics1 and political influence2 so they can profit off death and disease.
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Even for people who don’t use tobacco, there can be deadly consequences.3
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The industry calls kids their “replacement customers.”4 Big Tobacco sentences them to a lifetime of addiction and disease.
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This racist and unjust industry has strategically targeted certain communities with deadly products and manipulative messaging.5
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No one’s safe from the environmental damage6 and health risks7891011 from toxic tobacco waste and its plastic pollution.12
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Hold the industry accountable

California has already protected people from other harmful products,1314 and it’s time to hold the tobacco industry to the same standards.
  1. Federal Trade Commission. Federal Trade Commission Cigarette Report for 2020. Washington, D.C.: Federal Trade Commission. 2021.
  2. OpenSecrets. Industry Profile: Tobacco. Opensecrets.org. https://www.opensecrets.org/federal-lobbying/industries/summary?cycle=2021&id=A02. Accessed March 16, 2022.
  3. Office on Smoking and Health (US). The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US); 2006.
  4. RJ Reynolds. Younger Adult Smokers: Strategies and Opportunities. https://www.industrydocuments.ucsf.edu/docs/rkvk0045. 1984 February 29.
  5. Anderson SJ. Marketing of menthol cigarettes and consumer perceptions: a review of tobacco industry documents. Tob Control. 2011;20 Suppl 2(Suppl_2):ii20-ii28. doi:10.1136/tc.2010.041939.
  6. Break Free From Plastic. Branded Vol. III: Demanding corporate accountability for plastic pollution. 2020.
  7. Poma A, Vecchiotti G, Colafarina S, et al. In Vitro Genotoxicity of Polystyrene Nanoparticles on the Human Fibroblast Hs27 Cell Line. Nanomaterials (Basel). 2019;9(9):1299. Published 2019 Sep 11. doi:10.3390/nano9091299.
  8. Zarus GM, Muianga C, Hunter CM, Pappas RS. A review of data for quantifying human exposures to micro and nanoplastics and potential health risks. Sci Total Environ. 2021;756:144010. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.144010.
  9. Jacob H, Besson M, Swarzenski PW, Lecchini D, Metian M. Effects of Virgin Micro- and Nanoplastics on Fish: Trends, Meta-Analysis, and Perspectives. Environ Sci Technol. 2020;54(8):4733-4745. doi:10.1021/acs.est.9b05995.
  10. Ziv-Gal A, Flaws JA. Evidence for bisphenol A-induced female infertility: a review (2007-2016). Fertil Steril. 2016;106(4):827-856. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2016.06.027.
  11. Campanale C, Massarelli C, Savino I, Locaputo V, Uricchio VF. A Detailed Review Study on Potential Effects of Microplastics and Additives of Concern on Human Health. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(4):1212. Published 2020 Feb 13. doi:10.3390/ijerph17041212.
  12. Belzagui F, Buscio V, Gutiérrez-Bouzán C, Vilaseca M. Cigarette butts as a microfiber source with a microplastic level of concern. Science of The Total Environment. 2021;762:144165. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.144165.
  13. Governor Newsom Signs Legislation Making California First in the Nation to Ban Toxic Chemicals in Cosmetics [press release]. gov.ca.gov. https://www.gov.ca.gov/2020/09/30/governor-newsom-signs-legislation-making-california-first-in-the-nation-to-ban-toxic-chemicals-in-cosmetics/. Published September 30, 2020. Accessed March 23, 2022.
  14. Landmark California law bans 'forever chemicals' in products for infants, children [press release]. ewg.org. https://www.ewg.org/news-insights/news-release/2021/10/landmark-california-law-bans-forever-chemicals-products-infants. Published October 5, 2021. Accessed March 23, 2022.
  15. Holm P. Ventilation Research – Overview by Types of Workplace: Philip Morris, 1998. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/uhv70b00 (accessed 14 Aug 2009).
  16. Environmental Newsletter No. 30 Environmental Issue Tracking – Asia Pacific Region: Philip Morris, 1999.
  17. Tidy Britain Group. [Attitudes Towards Cigarette Disposal Outdoors]. Philip Morris, 1996.
  18. RJ Reynolds International. RJRI News Report. Wednesday, December 04, 1996: RJ Reynolds, 1996.
  19. PM Corporate Affairs: Robinson & Maites litter program development scope-of-work: Philip Morris, 1997. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/bhm16c00 (accessed 14 Nov 2008).
  20. Corporate Affairs Gameplan: Philip Morris, 2002. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/kir02c00 (accessed 2 Jul 2009).
  21. Stigler-Granados P, Fulton L, Nunez Patlan E, Terzyk M, Novotny TE. Global Health Perspectives on Cigarette Butts and the Environment. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019;16(10):1858. Published 2019 May 26. doi:10.3390/ijerph16101858.
  22. Hendlin YH, Bialous SA. The environmental externalities of tobacco manufacturing: A review of tobacco industry reporting. Ambio. 2020;49(1):17-34. doi:10.1007/S13280-019-01148-3/FIGURES/4.
  23. Break Free From Plastic. Branded Vol. III: Demanding corporate accountability for plastic pollution. 2020.
  24. Muller, Mike. 1978. Tobacco and the Third World: tomorrow’s epidemic?: A War on Want Investigation into the Production, Promotion, and Use of Tobacco in the Developing Countries.
  25. S. Chapman, Deputy Editor, Tobacco Control Journal, 1994; 3: 191-193 Tobacco and Deforestation in the Developing World).
  26. Kweyuth PHM. Tobacco expansion in Kenya – the socioecological losses. Tobacco Control Journal 1994: 3: 248-51).
  27. Waluye J. Environmental impact of tobacco growing in Tabora/Urambo, Tanzania. Tobacco Control 1994: 3: 252-4).
  28. Muwanga-Bayego H. Tobacco growing in Uganda: the environment and women pay the price. Tobacco Control 1994: 3: 255-6).
  29. http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/hazardouswaste/upload/hwmp_defininghw111.pdf.
  30. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3088407/pdf/tobaccocontrol40170.pdf.
  31. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10924-010-0258-0.
  32. http://www.tobaccoatlas.org/topic/environmental-harm/.
  33. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4129234/.
  34. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26369692.
  35. Belzagui F, Buscio V, Gutiérrez-Bouzán C, Vilaseca M. Cigarette butts as a microfiber source with a microplastic level of concern. Science of The Total Environment. 2021;762:144165. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.144165.
  36. Slaughter E, Gersberg RM, Watanabe K, Rudolph J, Stransky C, Novotny TE. Toxicity of cigarette butts, and their chemical components, to marine and freshwater fish [published correction appears in Tob Control. 2011 Nov;20(6):418]. Tob Control. 2011;20 Suppl 1(Suppl_1):i25–i29. doi:10.1136/tc.2010.040170.
  37. Break Free From Plastic. Branded Vol. III: Demanding corporate accountability for plastic pollution. 2020.
  38. Poma A, Vecchiotti G, Colafarina S, et al. In Vitro Genotoxicity of Polystyrene Nanoparticles on the Human Fibroblast Hs27 Cell Line. Nanomaterials (Basel). 2019;9(9):1299. Published 2019 Sep 11. doi:10.3390/nano9091299 doi:10.1021/acs.est.6b01441.