Smoking has long been known to lead to tobacco-related diseases and harmful health outcomes, including heightened risk of cancer, stroke, and heart disease. Not only is tobacco harmful to individual health outcomes, but it also harmful to the environment. Cigarette butts are the most common form of litter and an estimated 4.5 trillion butts are improperly discarded every year worldwide. Cigarette butts contain at least 4,000 chemicals, and about 50 of these are carcinogenic. Cigarette filters are non-biodegradable, contain many of the same toxic chemicals found in cigarettes, and in many cases, wash into the ocean waters, which in turn endangers the health of both marine and land life when ingested. Even when not directly ingested by animals, the chemicals contained within cigarette butts can enter the aquatic and marine waters, potentially harming fish and other biota. Research conducted by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated that cigarette debris is responsible for killing at least one million sea birds and 100,000 mammals annually. In addition to the litter discarded at beaches and parks, a significant amount of runoff cigarette litter end up in lakes, rivers, streams, beaches, and other watershed areas. There, cigarette waste negatively impacts recreational opportunities, economic activity, and natural aesthetics. In 2015, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted the Trash Amendments, a state law that prohibits the discharge of trash larger than 5 millimeters to state waters from storm water systems and requires installment and maintenance of trash capture devices for stormdrains downstream from significant trash generating areas. Despite this law, tobacco and other types of waste are able to escape or bypass these capture systems where they continue to pollute the environment.

The team will develop a methodology to calculate the amount of tobacco waste that has escaped trash capture systems in California to measure the extent of tobacco waste that continues to leach into streams and waterways. They will

  • conduct one workshop with stakeholders before developing the methodology to determine salient management and monitoring questions that will provide necessary input for how to develop the methodology.
  • convene four to five workshops once the methodology is developed throughout the state with CTCP-funded projects and other stakeholders who are working on tobacco product waste initiatives to train them to apply the methodology in the field and tailor the methodology to the specific needs of each community.
  • integrate the developed tobacco methodology into a Trash Monitoring Playbook as a "trash monitoring method."
2019 to 2020
Shelly Moore
Programs and Focus Areas: 
Environmental Informatics Program
Geographic Information Systems
Software Engineering
Location Information
General Project Location(s):