Smoke from tobacco products and discarded cigarette butts and packaging are wreaking havoc on human health and the natural ecosystems we rely on. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), second-hand smoking is responsible for one million deaths per year.
The Australian Government's Department of Health says that particles of smoke from the tips of burning cigarettes are so fine and concentrated than when inhaled, go deeper into the lungs and stay longer in the body than in the person who is smoking.
Every year, over 1 million deaths are caused by second-hand smoke – WHO
What is in second-hand smoke?
There is no risk-free level of exposure to second-hand smoke. Second-hand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, 69 of these are known to cause lung cancer and coronary heart disease. For people living with a smoker their likelihood of developing lung cancer increases between 20 and 30 per cent.
A study by Italy's National Cancer Institute comparing cigarette smoke with diesel engine exhaust found that cigarettes produced up to 10 times more pollution than a modern turbo diesel engine. The study measured the emissions of cigarettes burned consecutively over 30 mins, compared with an engine idling for the same amount of time.
Find out more about the effects of second-hand smoke on the NSW Health page 'Harms of tobacco smoking and second-hand smoke'.
Supporting a quitter
Quitting smoking can be difficult and will come with challenges and side effects such as cravings and mood swings. Smokers appreciate and rely on support from friends and family during their quit journey. The Cancer Institute NSW has some simple ideas and advice for people supporting friends and family to quit. Visit their
How to Help Somebody Quit Smoking page for further details and resources.
Helplines and mobile app
According to WHO "Tobacco users increase their absolute quit rate by 4 per cent using quitlines."
Quitline on 13 7848 (13 QUIT) for information and advice about quitting, assessment of your nicotine dependence, strategies on preparing to quit and staying quit.
Aboriginal Quitline is also available on 13 7848 (13 QUIT). Run by Aboriginal Advisors, the Aboriginal Quitline is a telephone-based confidential advice and support service.
- My QuitBuddy is an app for iPhone, Android and Windows developed by Quitline. The app helps you set goals, celebrate quit milestones, track the money you've saved from cutting cigarettes and games to distract you from cravings. The
My QuitBuddy app is available free for download.
Cigarette smoke and the environment
The WHO reports that approximately 300 billion cigarette packs and more than 6.3 trillion cigarette butts are littered into the environment every year. That is 1,800,000 tonnes of waste.
Australians throw 7 billion cigarette butts into the environment annually - Clean Up Australia
Clean Up Australia's annual Rubbish Report shows that cigarette butts account for the most commonly collected rubbish item. In 2018 they collected approximately 7 billion cigarette butts, more than chip and confectionery wrappers and plastic bottles combined.
The butt of the problem
Cigarette butts are made of cellulose acetate, which is photodegradable but not bio-degradable, meaning the filter will eventually break down but the chemicals never disappear. Littered butts pollute waterways with chemicals such as arsenic, lead, copper, chromium, cadmium, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Arsenic, cadmium and lead are on the WHO's list of 10 chemicals of major public health concern, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons have been identified as carcinogenic or cancer causing.
Chemicals from littered butts also leach into soil, eventually making their way into the food chain or drinking water, posing a further threat to human and animal health.
Other environmental threats from tobacco include bushfires, with an estimated 7 per cent of all bushfires in Australia caused by discarded cigarette butts and matches.
Smoking in your community
Smoking and using e-cigarettes are now banned in all enclosed public areas including in shopping centers, cinemas, libraries, trains and buses. It's also an offence to smoke or use an e-cigarette in a car with children under the age of 16 years, enforceable by Police. For more information on Smoke-free laws visit the NSW Health
Smoke-free laws page.
In private areas, the Cancer Council of NSW reports that years of survey results show that most Australians (93 per cent) want to live in smoke-free homes. For people living in apartment blocks exposure to second-hand smoke can be an issue. The Cancer Council has developed a toolkit and advice on approaching your agent, strata or owners' corporation about introducing a smoke-free by-law. For further information visit their
Smoke-free apartments NSW page.
Find out more about the effects of smoking on the
A-Z of Drugs | Tobacco page and contact
13 7848 (13 QUIT) for information and advice about quitting.