Swimming prohibited for cigarette butts


If sea shells and crustaceans were replaced by an army of cigarette butts, would you still appreciate going to the beach so much? Probably not. However, it is very likely that this scenario will become true pretty soon, since cigarette butts belong to the most frequent and polluting waste products. So let's put an end to this serial killer of marine ecosystems.

 © surfrider foundation europe

On the beaches of tomorrow: we will build sand castles full of cigarette butts, we will swim in layers of cigarette butts, we will spread our beach towel on a bed of cigarette butts... this seems exaggerate to you? Well, during the 2014 Ocean Initiatives Surfrider's volunteers had the unfortunate pleasure to pick up astronomic quantities of cigarette butts, meaning 8,000 within 2 hours in Six-Fours and 25,000 within 3 hours in Marseille (France).


If you drop it on the land, it ends up in the sea!

A survey has shown that a single cigarette butt is toxic enough to kill half of the small fish in one liter of water within only 96 hours. Furthermore, cigarette butts in the Ocean are often swallowed by wild animals which get a wrong feeling of satiation, but actually suffer from under-nutrition and can block their digestive system. Not only fish but also little children may mistake cigarette butts for something to eat and put them in their mouth. But the pollution doesn't stop there, so it is easy to understand that we also absorb these dangerous substances when we consume sea food.

© nobutts.org

Besides chemical pollution and ingestion by young children and animals, cigarette butts have unfortunately become the symbol of Surfrider's fight against water waste - in one line with plastic and cotton buds.


Some figures which will send shivers down your spine: 

12 years: is the time a cigarette butt takes to completely .. 

500 litres of water: is the amount of water polluted from one and a single cigarette butt 

137 000 cigarette butts: is the amount thrown on the streets around the world in one second


Serial killer of the Ocean

A cigarette butt consists of a filter, a cellulose - which is a form of plastic processed by toxic substances to shape its form (titanic oxide, triacetate, etc.) - a rest of tobacco and a paper holding the filter.

The life of a cigarette butt generally ends in the Ocean, because of wind and water phenomena. Thus it makes up for almost 40% of waste found in the mediterranean sea.

The chemical parts of a cigarette butt (mercure, arsene, rests of pesticides and other heavy metals) are dissolve within one hour when they get in contact with water. Equally, in the mountains a cigarette butt can pollute one cubic meter of snow - the snow that become liquid and one day ends up in the water (phréatic water, creeks and rivers, seas and Oceans).


 © la ligue contre le cancer.

Raising awareness without accusing

Biarritz, the first city on the Atlantic coast which has banned cigarettes, followed Nice and Cannes on the Côte d'Azur, Saint-Malo in Bretagne and Ouistreham in the Calvados. The beach of Port-Vieux, which has been non-smoking since 2015, is an example that education is an effective means to promote a more responsible behavior. So-called "environmental brigades" often consist of Civil Services who ensure the respect of this measure in a sense of raising awareness. Their purpose is to inform and sensitize about the multiple consequences one single cigarette may have. Although showing little interest first, smokers seem increasingly open and understanding.

Creating awareness without making guilty is often the most efficient means to make people understand that a small gesture may have unexpected consequences and that each and everyone of us has the power to take action for a clean and sustainable world. One example would be to use pocket ash trays. Being a (responsible) citizen also means respecting people around us and the environment. Are you ready to stop throwing your cigarette butts into the sea? Because dropping them on the floor means throwing them into the sea!

Laura Anty, Environmental Writer - Patricia Kastner, Translator

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