North East campaigners urge smokers to give up to help save the planet

Credit: ITV News

Campaigners are warning that tobacco is harming the beaches and environment of the North East.

The problem of pollution caused by cigarettes was being highlighted for World No Tobacco Day on Tuesday 31 May.

It is a national campaign by the World Health Organisation to show the damage of smoking in an effort to get people to cut back.

In the region, 2.9 million cigarettes are consumed each year, which results in around 158 tonnes of waste, and it is estimated that 66 tonnes of that end up as litter.

Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh and Balance said: "Most people know smoking kills - but too rarely do we ever stop think about how tobacco is polluting our world globally and here in the North East where we have a fantastic coastline.

"Cigarette filters are made up of thousands of tiny plastic particles.

"One single filter puts plastic into the marine environment, while cigarette filters also contain a cocktail of harmful chemical ingredients including arsenic, lead and nicotine that pollute our soil, waterways and seas, harming wildlife.

"It is one more reason to quit smoking and to make tobacco companies pay for the pollution they cause."

Andrew Riley is a North East surfer who is also a regional representative for Surfers Against Sewage.

He said:"The fact is that cigarette butt waste is a huge contributor to marine litter - we pick up thousands of cigarette butts off the beaches of the North East at local beach clean events.

"Unfortunately, cigarette butts all too often find their way to the coastline through drains or are stubbed out directly in the sand and pollute the water.

"You can see by putting a cigarette butt into a bucket of water how quickly it will turn brown, sticky and would pollute any marine life in there."