Cigarette litter: Smokers attitudes and behaviors

Jessica M. Rath, Rebecca A. Rubenstein, Laurel E. Curry, Sarah E. Shank, Julia C. Cartwright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cigarette butts are consistently the most collected items in litter clean-up efforts, which are a costly burden to local economies. In addition, tobacco waste may be detrimental to our natural environment. The tobacco industry has conducted or funded numerous studies on smokers' littering knowledge and behavior, however, non-industry sponsored research is rare. We sought to examine whether demographics and smokers' knowledge and beliefs toward cigarette waste as litter predicts littering behavior. Smokers aged 18 and older (n = 1,000) were interviewed about their knowledge and beliefs towards cigarette waste as litter. Respondents were members of the Research Now panel, an online panel of over three million respondents in the United States. Multivariate logistic regressions were conducted to determine factors significantly predictive of ever having littered cigarette butts or having littered cigarette butts within the past month (p-value < 0.05). The majority (74.1%) of smokers reported having littered cigarette butts at least once in their life, by disposing of them on the ground or throwing them out of a car window. Over half (55.7%) reported disposing of cigarette butts on the ground, in a sewer/gutter, or down a drain in the past month. Those who did not consider cigarette butts to be litter were over three and half times as likely to report having ever littered cigarette butts (OR = 3.68, 95%CI = 2.04, 6.66) and four times as likely to have littered cigarette butts in the past month (OR = 4.00, 95%CI = 2.53, 6.32). Males were significantly more likely to have littered cigarette butts in the past month compared to females (OR = 1.49, 95%CI = 1.14, 1.94). Holding the belief that cigarette butts are not litter was the only belief in this study that predicted ever or past-month littering of cigarette waste. Messages in anti-cigarette-litter campaigns should emphasize that cigarette butts are not just litter but are toxic waste and are harmful when disposed of improperly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2189-2203
Number of pages15
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Butt waste
  • Cigarette butt trash
  • Cigarette filters
  • Environment
  • Litter
  • Tobacco

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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