THE LIESTHE DANGERS
The tobacco industry’s plastic pollution is destroying our planet
The tobacco industry’s plastic pollution is destroying our planet
The tobacco industry’s plastic pollution is destroying our planet
The tobacco industry’s plastic pollution is destroying our planet

The Little Big Lie

The tobacco industry’s plastic pollution is destroying our planet

The tobacco industry’s cigarette filters scam could put us all in danger. 123 The industry makes filters from microplastic fibers,45 which filter practically nothing.6 Microplastics contaminate our soil, food, and water,78 and new studies suggest links to mutations in DNA.9 They’re destroying our environment – and may wind up inside you and the ones you love.10
Enough is enough

Microplastics are small but their impact is huge11

Microplastics are bits of synthetic material measuring 5 mm or less – about the size of a sesame seed.12 They’re too small to clean up – and they’re everywhere. The tobacco industry produces13 an estimated 6 trillion filtered cigarettes a year,14 making them a top contributor to a global plastic crisis.15

PLASTIC FILTERS
Each filter (or “butt”) is non-biodegradable because it’s made from 15,000+ microplastic fibers.16
PLASTIC FILTERS
CIGARETTE PAPERS
CIGARETTE PAPERS
TOBACCO
TOBACCO
cigarette butts on the beach

[Cigarette] filters are the deadliest fraud in the history of human civilization. They are put on cigarettes to save on the cost of tobacco and to fool people. They don’t filter at all. In the US, 400,000 people a year die from cigarettes – and those cigarettes almost all have filters.

Robert Proctor - Professor, The History of Science, Stanford University28

The lies

But who created
microplastic filters?
Big Tobacco did.17 18
An evil lie we’ll never forgive.

Floating plastic
Floating plastic
Floating plastic
Floating plastic
Floating plastic
Floating plastic
Floating plastic
Cigarette butt disintegrating
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Big Tobacco’s deadly scam
In the 1940s and 50s, as the health dangers of cigarettes became clear, Big Tobacco added filters – a harm reduction scam promising to make a "safer cigarette.”2021 The industry duped people by making filters out of a plastic material that was economical to use but not at all effective.2223 Because the filters filtered practically nothing.24 But Big Tobacco’s deception worked: In 1951, only 1% of cigarettes on the market had a filter; by 1958, almost half had a filter; and by 1993, almost all cigarettes were filtered.25
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As Big Tobacco began to realize filters didn’t reduce harm – but made their cigarettes easier to smoke27 – they doubled down on their harm reduction scam. In the 1950s, a chemist from R.J. Reynolds named Claude Teague developed the “Teague Filter” that turned filters from white to brown.28 The change in color fooled people into believing the filters protected their lungs from the toxic chemicals in cigarettes.29

Truth is, no matter what color they turn, filters don’t actually filter out toxic chemicals30 and have even been linked to a specific type of lung cancer.3132 It’s more lies from an industry that pretends to care about harm reduction.33

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Greenwashing: Big Tobacco flat-out lied about their products harming the environment
The industry has known their products destroy the environment35 – but that didn’t stop them from lying about it.
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Big Tobacco deliberately dodges environmental regulations
The tobacco industry wants us to believe that cigarette butts and vapes found on the ground are simply a litter problem.3738 They want us to waste our time installing ashcans in our cities and having beach cleanups.39404142434445 This ruthless industry uses slick PR campaigns to blame smokers for its tobacco trash, dodge accountability, avoid regulations, and spread outright lies.4647
Floating plastic

For far too long
They’ve polluted the Earth.48
They’re literally everywhere,49 50
There’s no need to search.

Cigarette
Learn more
The tobacco industry produces51 an estimated 6 trillion filtered cigarettes each year.52
Cigarette
Learn more
The toxic chemicals in cigarette butts and vapes officially put them in the category of “toxic waste” and make them nearly impossible to dispose of safely.53 54
Cigarette
Cigarette
Learn more
#1 most discarded item on California beaches57 and waterways.58
Cigarette
Cigarette
Learn more
#1 most littered item on Earth.59
Cigarette
Learn more
The tobacco industry’s products and waste disproportionately harm lower-income communities and communities of color, which Big Tobacco has targeted for decades.6061
Cigarette
Cigarette
Cigarette
Cigarette
Learn more
On California beaches, there are 9x more cigarette butts than plastic straws.62
Bottle
Bubble tea
Cup
Knife
Straw
Bag
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The dangers

Could they end up in you?6364
Your bodies, their prey?
New studies suggest links
To mutations in DNA.65

Cartoon image of fish

Cigarette butts are made from microplastic called cellulose acetate.66 Microplastics are tiny enough to get into our food chain.67 Microplastics have been found in drinking water,68 apples, broccoli, lettuce,69 seafood,70 and more.71

Cartoon imagery of internal organs

Studies have found microplastics in human lungs,72 blood,73 and stool74 – which means we’re ingesting and breathing in these dangerous chemicals.

harms-bg

These tiny plastics could be a big threat to everyone’s health. Research in humans and animals suggests microplastics may be linked to:

Infertility76 77

DNA mutations75

Intestinal damage7879

cigarette butts on sand

I feel like cigarettes and other bigger companies who sell into our communities, they don’t care. They just want to make money. They don’t want to see or hear about any responsibility of what they’re doing to the community or to the environment. Hit them where it hurts. Hit them in the wallets, and then they’ll have to listen, take responsibility for what they’re doing.

Kevin Donovan Nieves-Montiel - Student Intern, Watsonville Wetlands Watch102
Cartoon image of characters in suits holding a cigarette
Enough is enough

Hold them accountable

Express your outrage about the damage caused by the tobacco industry. You can make a difference by raising your voice.

More ways to speak up
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  2. 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
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  6. Proctor RN. Golden Holocaust: Origins of the Cigarette Catastrophe and the Case for Abolition. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 2011.
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  8. Oliveri Conti G, Ferrante M, Banni M, et al. Micro- and nano-plastics in edible fruit and vegetables. The first diet risks assessment for the general population. Environ Res. 2020;187:109677. doi:10.1016/j.envres.2020.109677
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