An unmindfully discarded cigarette butt or filter may not grab attention as a potential threat to environment, but what is not common knowledge is that the littered “nothings” on the streets keep releasing over time nearly all the 4,000 toxins present in cigarette smoke.
Doctors for You, a charitable organisation working towards cancer care, moved the National Green Tribunal through advocate Aishwarya Bhati praying that the Centre be directed to declare cigarette and bidi butts “toxic wastes”.
Not just the cigarette butts, which are the most littered item globally, the organisation also sought prohibition on consumption of tobacco in any form in all public places as it spoils the aesthetics and spreads communicable diseases.
A bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar has issued notices to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and also to the Central Pollution Control Board seeking their response.
Bhati told the Tribunal that “smoking and chewing tobacco should be allowed only in designated places where norms for disposal of cigarette/bidi butts and toxic saliva are in place. Such designated areas should be licensed and monitored jointly by the environment and health ministry”.
The petitioner said a cigarette butt takes almost 1.5 year to degrade and even un-smoked filters exhibit a small level of toxicity and there is no process of segregation of cigarette butts from waste. It brought forth the findings of Kerala State Forest Department which revealed that around 60 hectares of forest was lost between February 2009 and March 2010 due to fire started by carelessly thrown cigarette butts.
Regarding tobacco spits, the petitioner said they not only ruin aesthetics l eading to wastage of public money on upkeep and maintenance, but also spread diseases.
It cited the example of Howrah Bridge whose pillars are reportedly corroding due to acids in tobacco spits.
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