Every year 30 billion cigarette butts are estimated to be disposed in France, with 40% of them ending up on beaches, in forests, rivers and seashores. Moreover, evidence shows that a single filter can contaminate hundreds of liters of clean water due to the chemicals it contains and could take more than 10 years to decompose. In the same token, the French capital picks up around 350 tons of cigarettes butts each year despite the provision of public ashtrays and the threat of a 68 euros fine for anyone who litter on the street.
While considering all these issues and the burden they cause, the French government declared on 14 June 2018 their motivation to involve tobacco manufacturers and make them responsible in the fight against this environmental disaster. The Secretary of State for the Environmental and Solidary Transition Brune Poirson said that she was expecting the tobacco industry to come up with effective proposals to resolve this problem by September 2018. If no satisfactory solutions appear by then, they will be expected to pay for the clean-up or recycling scheme.
However, certain companies such as British American Tobacco have already expressed their discontent, stating it was not their responsibility to pay the bill. Imperial Brands quickly informed that they have no intention to alter their filters to make them more environmental friendly.
This latest chapter highlights the willingness of the French government to curb tobacco use, following the adoption of many strong and effective measures including comprehensive national tobacco control strategies, the implementation of standardized packaging and high increase in tobacco taxes. The results of such commitment were announced during the 2018 World No Tobacco Day with a historical reduction of 1 million daily smokers in one year.
This is also an example of implementation of Article 18 of the Convention, which France is now intending to add to its anti-tobacco paraphernalia.