Keep Britain Tidy state that smoking related rubbish is now the UK's biggest litter problem, with cigarette litter reported to be found on 78% of our streets.
A cigarette butt may be small, but if it is thrown away or dropped it is classed as littering which is an offence. The term 'smoking related litter' is used to describe cigarette packets, matches, silver paper, and cigarette butts or filters.
Since the introduction of smoke free legislation in England, many more people are now smoking outside and using the streets as an ashtray.
- looks bad
- can harm wildlife
- encourages more littering
- can make an area seem neglected and untidy
- has to be cleared away
- is bad for business
As well as being ugly, cigarette butts that have been thrown away contain tobacco and a number of toxic chemicals including hydrogen cyanide and arsenic which can harm wildlife.
Some people think that cigarette filters are made from cotton and that they degrade quickly. This is not true. Cigarette butts are made of cellulose acetate, which takes a number of years to biodegrade.
It takes one second to drop a cigarette butt. Assuming it takes the same time to pick it up again, it would take one person, working eight hours a day, nearly 20 years to collect the estimated 200 million cigarette butts that are thrown away each day in the UK (source - Keep Britain Tidy).
Smoking is a personal choice. Dropping cigarette butts is littering. Smokers are encouraged to ensure that their cigarette is fully extinguished before disposing of it in a suitable container such as a cigarette bin or a personal ashtray.
Perceptions about litter
Most littering is preventable and some people may not even be aware that they are committing littering offences. Different people may have different views of what littering actually means, for example some people might think that spitting chewing gum out on the floor or dropping a drinks can is unacceptable, but that dropping small items like a cigarette butt or a sweet wrapper is okay. If lots of people take that view, those little pieces of litter can soon add up to a big problem.
Dropping cigarette butts is classed as littering. Those that are caught littering may be issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice for £75. Fixed Penalty Notices are issued as an alternative to prosecution. This means that if someone receives a Notice and chooses not to pay it, they could face a higher fine or be prosecuted at Court.
If you know someone that smokes, you may want to encourage them to:
- Get a portable ashtray. Portable ashtrays are available from high street shops and the internet.
- Use an ashtray if they are outside a café, restaurant or pub that allows smoking (if there isn't one available most staff will try to provide one or there may be a wall mounted ashtray near the entrance).
- Use wall mounted cigarette bins if they are in town (these are sometimes located outside shopping centres) or cigarette bins which are placed on some of Broxtowe's litter bins.
- Always ensure that cigarette butts are stubbed out properly to avoid any risk of fire (including in the home).
- If no cigarette bins are nearby, cigarette butts should be stubbed out fully to avoid any risk of fire and placed in a public litter bin.
Keep Britain Tidy has released a new short film aimed at stopping cigarette litter. To watch this video, please use the YouTube offsite link on the right hand side.