• Cigarette butts or filters are the most common form of litter in westernised countries. It is estimated 4.5 trillion end up as litter on our streets not including discarded packs and their cellophane wrappers.

    Smoked it bin it

    Keep your butt of the street.

    Cigarette filters are not biodegradable as cellulose acetate, a form of plastic is one of the components that make up the butt and never breaks down. A high number of these filters which contain hundreds of harmful chemicals are swept into the water system were the poisons leak out. Carelessly discarded cigarette butts are also the main cause of house and forest fires the world over. We only have to look at the huge forest fires outside Los Angeles in May 2007 to show the needless destruction of natural parkland around the famous Hollywood sign due to a single discarded cigarette butt.

    Fish, birds, animals and even children have been known to eat these filters inadvertently causing blocked digestive and excretory systems, poisoning and even death, all are which are preventable if the filters were deposited responsibly in ashtrays by the smoker, instead of discarded on the ground.

    The tobacco industry could also implement steps to minimise the effects of discarded filters on the environment from printing ‘Do not litter’ slogans on packs or even on the cigarette itself. This can be done in words or pictures as on most confectionary items.

    The tobacco industry could also invest some of their huge cash profits into a program of supplying ‘personal ashtrays’ with every pack of cigarettes or sell them as they do lighters or even build into the design of a lighter a holder for cigarette filters.

    Unfortunately the tobacco industry seems to think the best course of action is to maintain a low profile while working to exempt cigarettes from coverage of pending litter control legislation. It believes the courtesy should be limited to the smoking of, rather than the disposal of tobacco products and by backing any fees or taxes to help clean up cigarette litter, they would be buying into the social cost argument against smoking.

    cigarette street litter

    Although a ‘no-litter’ campaign might be useful to tobacco companies, they would never be implemented before comprehensive cost/benefit analysis had taken place. It is obvious the tobacco industry cares little for the environment against their bottom line. However, governments and public opinion could open the eyes of these corporations and hit them were it hurts if anti- littering laws were upheld and the tobacco industry were to foot the bill for cleaning up our streets and water supply.


    The medical and scientific evidence of tobacco smoking is widely known as a major cause of cancer and premature death. However what is not publicized is the effect the tobacco industry has on the earth’s protective ozone layer.

    In the farming of tobacco, Methyl Bromide is used to fumigate soil. This gas is odourless, highly toxic and kills all living organisms. Over 5.5 million pounds of the substance is applied annually to tobacco crops. The US Environmental Protection Agency classifies it as one of the most lethal of acutely toxic pesticides. Those who come into contact with it can suffer poisoning, neurological damage and reproductive harm.  It also destroys the ozone layer. The depletion of the ozone layer leads to more global warning, increased skin cancer and eye cataracts from UV-B radiation. Couple this with the amount of chemical laden smoke released daily into the air and forest fires caused by carelessly deposited cigarette filters and vicious cycle starts to appear.

    Over 450 pesticide products are registered in the USA alone for the use on tobacco crops. Approximately 90% of American-style tobacco is now grown by farmers in 78 countries outside of the USA and the US are now the largest importer of tobacco. This has had a huge effect on small farming, family communities throughout the US. The majority of these small farms have long gone after being sold to large companies. Some 500,000 existed in the 1950’s, today around 85,000 struggle for survival. The tobacco companies blame the reduction of domestic tobacco demands on the decline of cigarette sales. However this 4-5% reduction does not compare to the 35% reduction in purchasing home grown tobacco.

    Developing countries now produce the majority of American style tobacco. The crops are grown on small independent farms, under strict contracts with the corporations, which provide all inputs through a carefully controlled system of loans and credits. The tobacco companies provide credit for the farmers to build drying sheds to cure the tobacco leaf after harvest. This debt can take many years to repay and during this period farmers are also buying seeds, fertilizers and pesticides from the company increasing the debt burden.

    Farmers are paid for the crop according to the quality of the harvest. In years of drought and other extreme weather conditions that seem to be more prevalent every year, crops can be destroyed forcing the farmers into selling the farm to pay back debts to the corporation and moving to the cities and favelas.

    Ironically the amount of land currently used to grow tobacco worldwide could instead be used to feed 10 to 20 million people. When good farmland is diverted to grow tobacco crops, governments may find themselves facing local food shortages and bearing the additional cost of importing food.

    To ensure the continues high profit margins tobacco companies ruthlessly pursue, millions of pounds of toxic chemicals are used on millions of acres of land worldwide, land that could be or was once used to grow food. The global epidemic of the tobacco industry not only endangers smokers, it also threatens tobacco farmers and their families, pollutes the air we breathe, destroys insects and micro organisms at the bottom of the food chain, depletes the ozone layer that protects us, contaminates soil and poisons the water supply. We all should question the sustainability and sanity of the tobacco industry.

    Click here For more information about cigarette litter and the environment.

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  • Here’s is an interesting pop quiz you can do to test your knowledge on smoking and the tobacco industry.

    Scroll down to the end for the answers.

    Q1. Marlboro cigarettes global annual sales exceed…

    A. $15 Billion                                                 B. $5 Million

    C. $ 10Million                                                 D. $10 Billion


    Q2. How many cigarette related deaths are there in the UK per year?

    A. 12,000                                                        B. 20,000

    C. 100,000                                                      D. 120,000


    Q3. How many compounds or additives are there in a cigarette?

    A. 600                                                             B. 160

    C. 60                                                               D. 600


    Q4. When a cigarette is burnt, how many toxic and/or chemical compounds are made?

    A. 1000                                                           B. 2000

    C. 4000                                                           D. 10,000


    Q5. Which country is the largest importer of American style tobacco?

    A. UK                                                             B. USA

    B. Brazil                                                         D. China


    Q6. How many cigarette filters are estimated to be found as litter in the westernised world?

    A. 4.5 Thousand                                             B. 4.5 Million

    C. 4.5 Billion                                                   D. 4.5 Trillion 


    Q7. Predicted deaths from smoking for the year 2030 are…

    A. 4 Million                                                     B. 6 Million

    C. 8 Million                                                     D. 10 Million


    Q8. Brazilian tobacco farmers have a higher than average suicide rate from the rest of the country. Is the rate…

    A. 3 x Higher                                                  B. 5 x Higher

    B. 7 x Higher                                                  D. 10 x Higher 


    Q9. The first country in the world to ban the sale of tobacco and smoking in public places is…

    A. Australia                                                     B. Bhutan

    C. Ireland                                                       D. Canada


    Q10. Bidis are…

    A. Old people                                                 B. A healthy cigarette

    C. An unfiltered cigarette                                 D. A sweet 


    Q11. Philip Morris’s Youth Smoking Prevention Program advertisement on MTV Europe was called…

    A. You don’t have to smoke to be cool          B. Don’t do it!

    C. Cool it… a smoke?                                   D. I’m cool, I just can’t help it.


    Q12. Since the ban on tobacco advertising in the UK in 2003 how many new brands have Philip Morris launched?

    A. 0                                                                 B. 1

    C. 2                                                                 D. 3 

    your basic cigarette message


    Q1 (A) Philip Morris manufactures, markets, sells and distributes in more than 160 countries.

    Q2 (D) 120,000 deaths a year is equivalent to the population of a town the size of Norwich or Chester.

    Q3 (A) Arsenic (Rat Poison), Formaldehyde (Body Preservative), Acetone (Nail Polish Remover), Hexamine ( BBQ Lighter), Cadmium ( Rechargeable Batteries), Lead (Petrol Fumes) Methanol (Rocket Fuel) and Ammonia (Household Cleaner) are all found in cigarettes.

    Q4 (C) The additives used in the manufacture of cigarettes are government approved for food. However, they were not tested by burning them. It is the burning of the substances that changes their properties. Many of these chemicals are carcinogenic. i.e. cause cancer.

    Q5 (B) Tobacco companies now grow and manufacture cigarettes in developing countries where overheads are less, markets are larger and anti tobacco legislation is almost non-existent.

    Q6 (D) Cigarette filters are not biodegradable as cellulose acetate; a form of plastic, is one of the components that make up the butt and never breaks down.

    Q7 (D) 70% of these deaths will be in developing countries.

    Q8 (B) A link was found between organophosphate pesticides and skyrocketing suicides which coincided with the seeding and harvesting of tobacco crops in Venancio Aires.

    Q9 (B) The Himalayan kingdom of 900,000 people banned tobacco use in early 2005 as part of its continuing tobacco-free initiative programme.

    Q10 (C) Imported from India, these cigarettes contain tobacco but are wrapped in nonporous leaves and sold in a variety of flavours such as strawberry, mango and vanilla. Bidis are referred to as cigarettes with training wheels by health authorities.

    Q11 (A) This initiative is dwarfed by corporate sponsorship, marketing and point of sale activity at rock concerts, formula 1 and sporting events.

    Q12 (C) Basic and Marlboro Blend 28 have both been successfully launched in the dark market post advertising ban.


     Have you got what it takes to be a tobacco executive?

    >> Take this cool interactive quiz  at www.thetruth.com Now <<

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  • Killing your customers is not generally considered a good business practise, but tobacco companies seem to excel in this field. 

    Associated health problems attributed to the smoking of cigarettes prior to the 1930’s were unknown. ‘Doctor Recommended’ and ‘Good for Digestion’ advertisements were common in the 1920’s. Then in 1932 a paper published by the American Journal of Cancer made the connection between cigarettes and cancer. 

    Many more papers were subsequently released, solidifying the health issues from cigarettes. By 1957 the Surgeon General (USA) became involved with the issues and by 1964 he had filed an official report connecting cigarettes to cancer.

    In the early 70’s a Smoking Act was passed by the US Congress, TV bans and warning labels were brought into effect. Within the space of four decades the image of cigarettes had changed. Smokers (the minority) still believe it’s their right to smoke, not the non-smokers (the majority) right to breathe clean air. On 1st July 2001 smoking will be banned in all public places in the UK following successful bans already in place in Scotland, Ireland and Wales.

    Way back in 1973 warning labels were introduced and the first ban on smoking in a public place was introduced in Arizona. California, New York State and Ireland followed suit years later. Other countries throughout the European Union are now lining up to back a ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces

    In 1984 warning labels were changed on the packet of cigarettes. Meanwhile in Canada, Brazil, Singapore and Thailand packs already contained graphic coloured images with additional health warnings. Ireland and Belgium have indicated that they will introduce some of the 42 images approved by the EU in the near future. 

                                                       Leo Bennett      Leo Burnett     

                 marlboro the original cigarette

                             ’Original’ Marlboro                       

    Philip Morris used the Leo Burnett Company in 1955 to develop a ‘minor cigarette brand with a predominately feminine image and turned it in to a big seller by using close-up photos of ruggedly handsome men’, The ‘Marlboro Man’ arguably the most successful marketing campaign ever, took the idea of smoking and linked it with the image of rebellion, freedom and personal choice. Thus, any attacks made on smokers or smoking becomes an issue of losing that freedom or the government interfering in the personal choices of the people. This changed somewhat in 1993 when passive smoking or second hand smoke was recognised as a cause of cancer. The issues of freedom to smoke and personal choice changed to one of injuring others.

                Smoking Marlboro Man

          Marlboro Man circa 1955     

    Smoking Marlboro Cowboy

          Marlboro cowboy circa 1956     

    Smoking Marlboro Cowboy 1973

    Smoking Marlboro Country

    Marlboro Country circa 1973

       Ronald Reagan in Cigarette Ad

     marlboro smoking cowboy

    marlboro rodeo

    Marlboro menthol cigarette ad

    The tobacco companies answered by employing marketing strategies for a healthier cigarette, this started in 1952 with the introduction of filters. 1.3% of cigarette sales had filters in this year but by 1956 over 25% had filters. Now almost all cigarettes sold are filtered. The next step in the elusive search for the healthy cigarette occurred in the 70’s with the introduction of the ‘Tar Wars’. Arguable the most famous brand created was ‘Marlboro Lights.’ The words Light and Medium were outlawed in 2002 in the UK. Cigarette tar and nicotine yields are measured by machines that smoke but bear little relation to the way humans smoke cigarettes. However it is widely perceived that a Light alternative is safer but there is no evidence to support this.

    The continuation of marketing ‘Marlboro Man’ and ‘Marlboro Country’ saw the emphasis shift from the product to one were a cigarette or pack of cigarettes had completely disappeared from the advertisements and now the focus was on satisfaction and taste. The whole appeal of the product is one of rebellion and freedom. Marlboro ads no longer sell a product but sell an image.

    As the Western worlds taste for cigarettes diminishes with the knowledge of cancer and the new legislation against tobacco smoking in public places and raising the age to buy from 16 to 18, the tobacco companies shift their emphasis to new and emerging markets in developing countries. Not unlike other corporations who set up sweat shops in Free Trade Zones throughout the developing world, the tobacco companies are also taking advantage of cheap labour and land and take with them a whole new set of health, environmental and social problems. Although cigarette sales in the western world have diminished the tobacco companies report bigger profits year on year, but at what cost to public health and the environment?

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