Cigarette Butt Litter—In The News

Breaking News: EarthTalk (a column written by The Environmental Magazine) distributed a column on October 23, 2009 in which cigarette litter was discussed. The “unnamed” author of the article DID NOT CALL OR INTERVIEW ANY MEMBERS of Clean Virginia Waterways' STAFF or VOLUNTEERS yet inserted numerous misleading and highly inaccurate quotes purportedly made by CVW’s executive director, Kathleen Register. The article grossly misrepresents the established position of Clean Virginia Waterways regarding litter prevention as well as Ms. Register’s professional standards. This misuse of a media forum undermines the significant litter prevention efforts that CVW has developed during the past 10 years working with other litter prevention organizations and partners in the tobacco industry. Conservation organizations rely upon the honesty and professionalism of the media to disseminate important information to the public; CVW is disappointed that EarthTalk's article did not meet these standards.  

Here are some News Stories that involve cigarette butt litter. Click here for newspaper articles about how communities are trying to reduce cigarette litter. Up-to-date articles about cigarette litter and other tobacco-related topics can be found on the website.

Share your cigarette butt story
Do you have a cigarette litter story to share? Please send an email to and share your story!
Fires caused by cigarette litter   Click here for more stories about fires caused by cigarettes.

"No One Likes A Butt Head"
Biloxi, MS Sun Herald, January 20, 1999
Biloxi, MS, firefighters are investigating whether a bird caused a fire this week that spread over several acres in the town. Biloxi Fire Dept. Battalion Chief Wallace Powell: "It could've been started by a bird that picked up a lighted cigarette and dropped it. I've seen it happen before. A bird brought a cigarette to its nest, and a fire started.

Calif. Brush Fire Enters Second Day As Winds Abate
Thursday January 4, 2001

ALPINE, Calif. (Reuters) - A cigarette thrown from a car window by a careless smoker may have sparked a brush fire that forced hundreds of evacuations and hopscotched across 11,000 rural acres near San Diego this week, officials said on Thursday. "It was some kind of smoking material and we're pretty sure it was a cigarette," said Laura Lowes, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry. The incident is still under investigation, a San Diego Sheriff's spokeswoman said.

Efforts to control the fire appeared to be paying off as the fierce winds that had fueled the blaze abated. By Thursday afternoon the fire was about 15 percent contained, as warm Santa Ana winds that raged at speeds up to 65 mph on Wednesday died down to a tamer 15 mph, Lowes said. Meanwhile, San Diego residents headed home from work on Thursday under a nut brown sky amid acrid air and chunks of falling ash, as weary rescue workers braved thick, black smoke to battle the blaze as it roiled the sparsely populated, mountainous area about 30 miles north of the city.

It was not known when the fire would be fully contained, officials said. A local state of emergency remained in effect for San Diego County. Hundreds of people seen clutching prized possessions as they were led away Wednesday from an Indian reservation and from neighborhoods near the fire were allowed to go home late Thursday, officials said. A total of four houses were destroyed, said Scott Spinks of the California Department of Forestry. He said five trailers and four uninhabited buildings were also destroyed, and it was not known how many of the trailers were used as residences.

About 1,800 federal, state and local emergency workers fought the flames Thursday. Meanwhile, a fleet of air tankers and helicopters dropped water and chemicals over 11,000 acres. Several minor injuries, most stemming from smoke inhalation, were reported at area hospitals, officials said. People with asthma and other lung diseases were advised to remain indoors.

Firefighting crews planned to continue working through the night. Fire officials said they were hampered in some cases by narrow, twisting canyon roads and by efforts to protect isolated homes and ranches. "When the winds died down the fire contained itself ... but as soon as the winds come back embers blow all over the place and all hell breaks loose," California Department of Forestry spokesman Ray Cardona said.

The San Diego area has experienced unseasonably dry weather, hot temperatures and the gusty winds, all leading to a greater danger of brush fires, National Weather Service (news - web sites) spokesman Ivory Small said.

2. Cost of Cleaning up cigarette litter

Some Examples:
"School officials say landscapers who should be planting flowers and pruning shrubs are spending time instead picking up butts on the 15,000-acre campus: Some 13 landscapers spend 10 hours a week picking up discarded cigarettes at an estimated cost of $150,000." -- Philadelphia Daily News, March 27, 2000 on Penn State Cigarette Litter Costs

Marshall University in Huntington:
"Maintenance spends a lot of time picking it up and it seems like we can't keep up," Dr. K. Edward Grose, vice president of operations, said. Andrew Sheetz, supervisor of roads and grounds, said a conservative estimate would be that at least $30,000 is spent by his department alone picking up cigarettes and other litter. He has one employee who does nothing but pick up litter and empty trash
from the nearly 100 trash cans around campus, Sheetz said. The worker's salary alone, not including overtime, benefits or insurance, comes to about $27,000, Sheetz said."

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

Ingestion of Cigarettes and Cigarette Butts by Children

Click here for an article by the U.S. Center for Disease Control

The CDC studied 146 children aged six months to two years who had ingested cigarettes or cigarette butts. One-third of them experienced illness—the most common symptom reported was vomiting. Most ingestions occurred in homes where children were exposed to smoke and where cigarettes and ashtrays were kept within the reach of children.

The study also found the following:

Children in households where cigarettes were smoked in their presence were four times as likely to ingest cigarettes or cigarette butts as children in households where smoking does not occur around children.

The ages of children in the study who had ingested cigarettes or cigarette butts were 6-24 months. Among children who had ingested cigarettes or cigarette butts the highest number of exposures occurred among children aged 6-12 months (76.7%).

A third of children who ingested cigarettes or cigarette butts developed symptoms. Spontaneous vomiting occurred among 87 percent of children who developed symptoms. Other symptoms included nausea, lethargy, gagging, and a pale or flushed appearance.

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.

Return to Cigarette Butt Litter Home Page

Return to Clean Virginia Waterways

Compiled by Clean Virginia Waterways, Longwood University, Farmville, VA 23909
434-395-2602 Fax: 434-395-2825 Email: