Question Of The Week: Ways To Prevent Cigarette Litter?

Although cigarette smoking in America has decreased 28% in the past decade, cigarette butts remain the most littered item in the U.S. and across the globe.

Despite the fact that cigarette smoking in America has decreased 28% in the past decade, cigarette butts remain the most littered item in the U.S. and across the globe.¹ The overall littering rate for cigarette butts is 65%, and tobacco products comprise 38% of all U.S. roadway litter, according to Keep America Beautiful.²

cigarette litter
(Photo: Keep America Beautiful)

Cigarette butt littering is often associated with resources available in the physical environment: For example, for every additional ash receptacle, the littering rate for cigarette butts decreases by 9%. Cigarette butt littering is also attributable to individual motivations: 77% of individuals in a survey stated they did not consider cigarette butts as litter.²

To address cigarette butt litter, Keep America Beautiful’s Cigarette Litter Prevention Program advocates four proven approaches:

  • Encourage enforcement of litter laws, including cigarette litter;
  • Raise awareness about the issue using public service messages;
  • Place ash receptacles at transition points such as entrances to public buildings; and
  • Distribute pocket or portable ashtrays to adult smokers.

Keeping It Clean

As part of its Cigarette Litter Prevention Program, Keep America Beautiful recently awarded grant funding to 42 communities. In addition, new marketing resources will be unveiled later this spring to help grant recipients and participating organizations spread the word in the fight to combat cigarette litter, the leading form of litter in America. A 2018 Cigarette Litter Prevention Program Toolkit is available for download here.

The new grants, totaling $295,000, will be distributed to 42 organizations through the 2018 Cigarette Litter Prevention Program. Keep America Beautiful affiliates, local governments, business improvement districts, downtown associations, parks and recreation areas, and other organizations dedicated to ending litter and beautifying communities are receiving grants. Since the establishment of the national initiative, communities in 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Canada have implemented the Cigarette Litter Prevention Program to reduce cigarette litter. Throughout its history, the program has helped reduce cigarette litter in the communities in which it has been implemented by an average of 50 percent.

“The 2018 grant recipients are charged with moving the program forward to help educate and inspire smokers to do the right thing,” said Helen Lowman, Keep America Beautiful president and CEO. “The new marketing assets, which any community can localize and use, will enable affiliates, local governments, and other community groups to teach adult smokers about the negative impacts related to littering and the role they can play in improving their community.”

Since its establishment over 16 years ago, the Cigarette Litter Prevention Program has consistently cut cigarette butt litter by approximately half based on local measurements taken in the first four months to six months after program implementation. Survey results also demonstrate that as communities continue to implement and monitor the program those reductions are sustained or even increased over time. Keep America Beautiful has distributed over $3 million in grant funding to support local implementation of the program in more than 1,700 communities nationwide.

Last year, Cigarette Litter Prevention Program grants provided by Keep America Beautiful funded implementations across the country in a variety of settings including downtowns, roadways, beaches, parks, marinas, colleges/universities, tourist locations, and at special event locations. In addition, Keep America Beautiful piloted a new type of ash receptacle in partnership with UK-based Hubbub, known as the Ballot Bin, to fight litter. The bins were found to be successful forms of behavior change with some pilot sites showing as much as 83 percent reduction in cigarette litter.

The Cigarette Litter Prevention Program is supported by funding from Philip Morris USA, an Altria company; RAI Services Company; and the Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company.

¹”America Reaches Major Anti-Smoking Milestone,” The American Legacy Foundation, Nov. 19, 2008.
“Litter in America” 2009 KAB Research.

Is cigarette litter an issue outside your facility? What steps have you taken to address the problem? Which of your efforts have been most successful, and which haven’t worked as well? Share your thoughts, experiences, or questions in the Comments section below.