Smoking (1) Article on cigarette filters and environmental pollution

6 December, 2022

CIGARETTE FILTERS: a single-use plastic that pollutes the environment.

Plastic pollution is a significant environmental issue due to the rapidly increasing production of disposable plastic products that overwhelm the world’s ability to manage them.

Globally, more than six trillion cigarettes are produced annually, each containing filters mainly composed of cellulose acetate fibers with a plasticizer: they are microplastics.

When cigarette butts are not properly disposed of, they get broken down by sunlight and moisture, releasing these microplastics and many other chemicals which impact mainly the marine environment. When ingested, they cause long-term mortality in marine life, including birds, fish and plants, and could also enter the food chain and produce serious human health impacts.

Cigarette filters are a form of non-biodegradable plastic waste that carries tobacco residue, toxic chemicals, and heavy metals and is one of the most polluting single-use plastics on the planet. Cigarette filters are considered "single-use plastics" and are mentioned as such by UNEP publications.

They were designed to make smoking more comfortable and attractive and to suggest that they lessen harm, but this is not true. It was to deceive the smoker. Their removal may reduce the appeal of cigarettes and cause many smokers to quit.

UNEP convened the first (of five) Intergovernmental Negotiating Conference of the United Nations treaty to end plastics pollution, which was held in Punta del Este, Uruguay, from November 28 - December 22, 2022.

This treaty is an opportunity to get cigarette filters eliminated, improving health and the environment.

Dr. Eduardo Bianco

Director, International Policy Education



Chair, WHF Tobacco Expert Group

HIFA profile: Eduardo Bianco is a medical doctor and Cardiologist, Certified Tobacco Cessation Expert with a Master’s in Prevention and Treatment of Addictive Disorders. Currently, he is Chair of the World Heart Federation Tobacco Expert Group. Dr. Bianco’s research examines tobacco control and cessation, and he is a prominent member of several organizations that address tobacco control in Latin America. Dr. Bianco has worked for 25 years in Uruguay and Latin America to promote and train in smoking cessation treatment and tobacco control policies. He is also the former Regional Coordinator for the Americas of the Framework Convention Alliance and former Technical Director of the MOH Center for International Cooperation for Tobacco. He is a member of the HIFA project on Mental health: meeting information needs for substance use disorders. Email: ebianco AT