Tobacco Policy & Resources

Environmental Concerns

Tobacco impacts our local and global environment. Tobacco smoke contains many of the Environmental Protection Agency's top environmental toxins and pollutants, including: lead, chromium, arsenic, cadmium, toluene, vinyl chloride, and benzene.

Cigarette Litter and the Environment

  • Tossed into gutters and on the shoulders of roads, cigarette butts will likely travel through storm drains and enter our watershed, where they can travel all the way to the ocean.
  • Because cigarette filters are specifically designed to accumulate toxins, each cigarette butt can contain up to 60 known human carcinogens including arsenic, formaldehyde, chromium and lead. Indeed, there are 1,400 potential chemical additives. Toxicological data has shown that these chemicals from discarded cigarette butts are capable of leaching into surrounding water where they can harm aquatic life.
  • Nicotine has been shown to be lethal to species of fish, crustaceans, zooplankton, and other aquatic organisms, as well as being a known insecticide.
  • Cigarette butts present an ingestion, choking and poisoning hazard to wildlife who mistake them for food. Cigarette filters are composed of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic that can persist in the environment for long periods of time. Plastics of this sort have been found in the stomachs of sea turtles, fish, birds, whales and other marine creatures.

Source: Californians Against Waste,, Cigarette Butt Litter site of Clean Virginia Waterway.

Tobacco and Fire Hazards

  • Smoking materials (i.e., cigarettes, cigars, pipes, etc.) are the leading cause of fire deaths in the United States. Roughly one of every four fire deaths in 2005 was attributed to smoking materials.
  • In 2005, there were an estimated 82,400 smoking-material fires in the United States. These fires caused 800 civilian deaths and 1,660 civilian injuries.
  • Virginia's Department of Forestry estimates that 14% of forest fires, or wildfires, are caused by smoking.

Source: National Fire Protection Agency

World Health & Economy

The World Health Organization is reporting the effect of the tobacco industry on world poverty: