Butt why? The EU countries weighing a ban on cigarette filters to deter smoking and cut pollution
Health and environmental campaigners are calling for a European ban on cigarette filters, saying it would fight pollution and discourage people from smoking.
Cigarette butts are the second most common litter found on European beaches, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Last year, WHO called on governments worldwide to consider cigarette filters as single-use plastics and ban them as they damage the environment and have no proven health benefits.
Littered tobacco products release 7,000 toxic chemicals, and the butts contain microplastics, which are known to be difficult to decay and pollute nature.
Some European countries including the Netherlands are now weighing a ban on cigarette filters.
“An outright ban on single-use cigarette filters appears to be the most effective option to counteract the harmful environmental effects of this type of litter,” the Dutch junior infrastructure minister Vivianne Heijnen told lawmakers in April.
“There are no proven health benefits to smoking cigarettes with a filter,” she added.
However, Heijnen said a national ban would contravene the European free trade agreement and that Europe-wide regulation should be considered instead. She suggested it could be included in the 2026 renewal of the European guideline on single-use plastics.
‘False sense of security’
Also last month, the Superior Health Council in Belgium suggested a European-wide ban on cigarette filters.
In a report, it argued that filters offer smokers a more “pleasant mouthfeel” and give them a “false sense of security”.
Health campaigners in Denmark agree and have joined the calls for a ban.
“We suggest that we forbid cigarette filters. We base this proposal on the intuitive (mis)understanding that cigarette filters have some sort of protective influence. We want to get rid of the false security,” Niels Them Kjær, in charge of tobacco control at the Danish Cancer Society, told Danish broadcast TV2.
The Danish Cancer Society and Danish Heart Association expect that cigarettes without filters would discourage young people from taking up smoking.
“For children and young people, it is easier to begin smoking if there is a filter on the cigarette. You avoid getting tobacco in your mouth, and it is simply more pleasant to smoke a cigarette with a filter,” said Kjær.