Global Health Perspectives on Cigarette Butts and the Environment
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Cigarette butts, which are also known as tobacco product waste (TPW), are the single most collected item in environmental trash cleanups worldwide. This study used an online survey tool (Qualtrics) to assess knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions regarding this issue among individuals representing the Framework Convention Alliance (FCA). The FCA has about 680 members on its listserv, including non-governmental tobacco control advocacy groups that support the implementation of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Respondents (n = 65) represented countries from all six WHO regions. The majority (82%) had heard the term TPW, and they all considered TPW as an environmental harm at some level. Additionally, 29% of respondents failed to identify that “cigarette filters make smoking easier”. Most (73%) correctly identified TPW components; however, fewer (60%) correctly identified the composition of cigarette butts. The majority (57%) were unfamiliar with Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and Product Stewardship (PS) as possible environmental intervention strategies. Respondents expressing opinions concurred that adding a litter fee to fund TPW programs will aid in reducing tobacco use and reduce the environmental impacts of TPW (100%); that prevention, reduction, and mitigation of TPW could be an important part of international tobacco control programs (98%); and, that banning smoking in outdoor venues could reduce TPW (95%). Only 16% reported effective prevention or clean-up efforts in their countries. Weighted rankings revealed that respondents’ saw the national government, the tobacco industry, and state governments as the most important in addressing TPW. The results of this research will inform continuing international discussions by the FCTC Conference of the Parties (COP) regarding environmental policies that may be addressed within FCTC obligations.