How many discarded cigarette butts are there?

  Note: The numbers on this web page reflect the number of cigarettes consumed or produced. This does not mean that the discarded cigarette butts were all littered. No one knows the exact number of cigarette butts which are littered each year. Clean Virginia Waterways encourages you to use these facts and numbers correctly.

WORLD CIGARETTE PRODUCTION

1950 1,686 billion
1960 2,150 billion
1970 3,112 billion
1980 4,388 billion
1990 5,419 billion
1991 5,351 billion
1992 5,363 billion
1993 5,300 billion
1994 5,478 billion
1995 5,599 billion
1996 5,680 billion
1997 5,633 billion
1998 5,581 billion
1999 5,554 billion
2000 5,609 billion
2001 5,643 billion
2002 5,602 billion
2003 5,662 billion
2004 5,530 billion (prelim.)

Sources for above table: U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Bureau of Census as quoted in "Vital Signs 2005" published by WorldWatch Institute.

CIGARETTES CONSUMED IN THE UNITED STATES The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that the following number of cigarettes were consumed in the U.S.:

1993 - 485,000,000,000
1994 - 486,000,000,000
1995 - 487,000,000,000
1996 - 487,000,000,000
1997 - 480,000,000,000
1998 - 465,000,000,000
1999 - 435,000,000,000
2000 - 430,000,000,000
2001 - 425,000,000,000
2002 - 415,000,000,000
2003 - 400,000,000,000
2004 - 388,000,000,000
2005 - 376,000,000,000

2006 - 372,000,000,000
2007 - 360,000,000,000 (Estimate by USDA)

Source: Tobacco Outlook Report, Economic Research Service, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

The USDA estimates that consumption in the U.S. is decreasing due to the cumulative effects of higher prices, higher State taxes, restrictions on smoking, and increased awareness of links between smoking and disease. See Links for more details. For more data on production, export, and consumption of tobacco products, see http://www.ers.usda.gov/briefing/tobacco/tables.htm

LARGEST PRODUCERS OF CIGARETTES

1. China 1.79 Trillion cigarettes produced in 2004, mostly (99%) consumed in China
2. United States 499 billion cigarettes produced in 2004, about 24 percent exported
3. Russia 380 billion cigarettes produced in 2004
4. Japan 216 billion cigarettes produced in 2004
 

 

Note: The numbers on this web page reflect the number of cigarettes consumed or produced. This does not mean that the discarded cigarette butts were all littered. No one knows the exact number of cigarette butts which are littered each year. Clean Virginia Waterways encourages you to use these facts and numbers correctly.

The World Health Organization estimates that 1,300,000,000 (1.3 billion) people smoke in the world - that is one third of all people on earth over the age of 15. More than 80 percent of these people live in countries with low or middle income levels.

WEIGHT AND VOLUME OF CIGARETTE BUTTS

The 360 billion cigarettes smoked in the United States in 2007 translates to a total of 135,000,000 pounds of discarded butts in one year in the United States alone. The filters from 5.6 trillion cigarettes (approximate world production) would weigh more than 2.1 billion pounds (see table below). This figure does not include the weight of the tobacco still attached to the filter, or the packaging, matches, disposable lighters, and other "collateral" waste that is generated by smoking.

The filters on one pack of 20 cigarettes weigh 0.12 ounces (with no tobacco attached) and displaces a volume of 10 mL. With annual worldwide production of cigarettes at 5.6 trillion, the potential weight and volume of cigarette butts becomes enormous (Table below).

number of filters ounces/pounds milliliters/liters
20 (one pack) .12 oz 10 ml
10,000 (one year's consumption for one smoker) 3.75 lbs 5 liters
1,000,000 375 lbs 500 liters
100,000,000 37,500 lbs 50,000 liters
10,000,000,000 3,750,000 lbs 5,000,000 liters
360,000,000,000 (Estimated number of cigarettes smoked in the US in 2007. Note: not all were littered!!) 135,000,000 lbs 180,000,000 liters
1,000,000,000,000 375,000,000 lbs 500,000,000 liters

5,608,000,000,000

(1998 world cigarette production)

2,103,000,000 lbs 2,804,000,000 liters
     

* The percentage of cigarettes with filters varies, depending on the country.

Similarly, cigarette butts take up a large volume of space. If one person smokes a pack-and-a half a day, he will consume more than 10,000 cigarettes in a year. This number of cigarette butts (filters only-not including remnant tobacco) will fill a volume of five liters. Worldwide annual consumption of cigarettes creates enough cigarette butt waste to fill more than 2,800,000,000 liters (2,800,000 m3).

Cigarette butt data from The Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup

So how many cigarette butts are finding their way into streams, rivers and coastal environments? The International Coastal Cleanup, organized annually by The Ocean Conservancy (formerly the Center for Marine Conservation) involves more than 300,000 volunteers picking up debris from beaches, rivers and streams around the world. Volunteers complete Marine Debris Data Cards indicating the quantity and type of litter they pick up. Every year during the International Coastal Cleanup, cigarette butts top the list as the most abundant item collected worldwide. Cigarette butt litter is also one of the top sources of litter in Virginia.

Cigarette butts are the most common debris item collected during the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup, numbering:

1998 - 1,616,841
1999 - 1,052,373
2000 - 1,369,726
2001 - 1,527,837 (22.31% of all the debris collected during the ICC)
2002 - 1,640,614 (cigarettes and other smoking-related products accounted for 30 percent of the debris)
2003 - 1,426,613 (cigarette filters, cigar tips, and tobacco packaging accounted for 38% of U.S. debris, and 34% of worldwide debris)
2004 - 1,268,177 (cigarette filters, cigar tips, and tobacco packaging accounted for 29.6% of U.S. debris, and 21.2% of worldwide debris)

2005 - 1,638,066
(cigarette filters, cigar tips, and tobacco packaging accounted for 30.4% of worldwide debris)
2006 - 1,892,060 (cig
arette filters, cigar tips, and tobacco packaging accounted for 33.4% of worldwide debris)
2007 - 1,971,551 (cigarette filters, cigar tips, and tobacco packaging accounted for 38% of worldwide debris)

Cigarette butts have topped the list in all the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanups since they were added to the Data Cards as a separate item in 1990. The number of cigarette butts collected during the cleanup is a small fraction of what is really out in the environment. The Ocean Conservancy has fact sheets about the International Coastal Cleanup available online. Go to: http://www.coastalcleanup.org/press.cfm to access these PDF files using Adobe Acrobat Reader.

  Note: The numbers on this web page reflect the number of cigarettes consumed. This does not mean that the discarded cigarette butts were all littered. No one knows the number of cigarette butts which are littered each year. Clean Virginia Waterways encourages you to use facts and numbers correctly.

Click here for newspaper articles about how communities are trying to reduce cigarette litter.

Click here for information about workplace smoking bans, and how they impact cigarette litter in the environment.

Read all about cigarette butt litter!

Click here to read an article that was published in the August 2000 issue of the American Littoral Society journal, The Underwater Naturalist. This article, by CVW's Executive Director Kathleen M. Register, includes background data, such as the fact that 2.1 billion pounds of cigarette filters were discarded worldwide in 1998, along with results of her research showing that leached chemicals from cigarette filters are deadly to the water flea Daphnia magna, a small crustacean at the lower end of, but important to the aquatic food chain.

 

Students and Teachers:

Are you interested in doing a science fair project on cigarette litter? Click here for ideas and information.

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Compiled by Clean Virginia Waterways, Longwood University, Farmville, VA 23909
434-395-2602 Fax: 434-395-2825 Email: cleanva@longwood.edu