Thursday, 10 July 2008

A QUESTION for your MP

A packet of Windsor Light Blue Superking cigarettes is £4.45. Of this £1.11 goes to the retailer / wholesaler / manufacturer. A massive 77% goes to the UK government in excise and VAT - that is £3.34 a packet. The total income to the Government from tobacco in 2006/7 was £10 billion. Despite the big percentage going to the government the cigarette manufacturers are still making an enormous profit every year.

Changes in legislation have driven smokers out of doors. As a result there has been a vast increase in the number of cigarette filter tips littering the ground. And they last, and last, and last, polluting the environment in their own little way. Cigarette butts require an average of ten years to degrade. They're not really biodegradable; they contain acetate and other plastics that don't break down easily. Cigarette butts also make up per capita, so to speak the majority of urban litter. Just keep a mental tally next time you're out for a walk in your neighbourhood: the item of garbage that pops up the most frequently is likely to be the ubiquitous filter tip. Especially if your walk takes you past any bars or office buildings. In fact, some estimates suggest that 40 per cent of urban litter is cigarette-related, when plastic wrappers and cardboard cartons are added to the mix.

Aside from their stubborn longevity, and their unquestionable unsightliness, they are responsible for killing a great number of animals in cities, in forests, in lakes, rivers, and oceans who mistake them for something edible.

The toxins tar, cadmium, lead, arsenic in cigarette tobacco and filter tips can leak into soil and water systems, leaving them poisoned and uninhabitable.

How about the Government and the manufacturers using just a teeny, tiny bit of that money to create filter tips capable of decomposing under natural conditions? It should not be that difficult to make tips that can be broken down by bacteria and other micro-organisms into simple, stable products that will not harm the environment.

And yes, I know that if people didn’t throw their cigarette butts away the problem would not arise. (I now take mine home in my pocket but if you prefer it is easy enough to make a portable ashtray from items around the house). But biodegradable tips would be a start...

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