Why is the European Union thinking of banning cigarette filters?
Updated 00:14, 01-Aug-2023
Cigarette butts are the second-most common litter on European beaches. /CFP
Cigarette butts are the second-most common litter on European beaches. /CFP

Cigarette butts are the second-most common litter on European beaches. /CFP

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 the continent's beaches. Last year the World Health Organization urged governments worldwide to consider filters as single-use plastics and ban them as they damage the environment and have no proven health benefits, according to the WHO. 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 such as the Netherlands are weighing up a ban on the filters while Denmark plans to phase out tobacco sales by 2029 in conjunction with the Danish Cancer Society. 


Are filtered cigarettes better or worse for your health? 

Researchers say your lung cancer risk is lower from smoking filtered cigarettes, but there's little difference if you smoke "light" cigarettes.

A study, led by researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina, found that people who smoked unfiltered cigarettes were 40 percent more likely to develop lung cancer and nearly twice as likely to die from it than those who smoked filtered cigarettes. 

They were also more dependent on nicotine and 30 percent more likely to die of any cause.


However, Thomas Novotny, of San Diego State University, believes cigarette filters are completely useless and are only there to fool smokers into thinking they're safer. 

He said: "Filters first appeared in the 1950s when the tobacco industry portrayed them as a way to make cigarettes safe by absorbing some of the tar that was implicated in the lung cancer epidemic.

"But we now know that this safety argument was a myth, one of the many created by the tobacco industry to sell cigarettes."


What is the effect of cigarette filters on the environment? 

Cigarette filters have a significant environmental impact: they are the most littered item in the world, made of cellulose acetate – a type of plastic that can take up to a decade to decompose. 95 percent of cigarette filters are made of plastic material (cellulose acetate) that may appear like cotton.

It is non-biodegradable and may remain toxic for up to 10 years. Vaping has a lower carbon footprint and waste, free from the hassle of single-use packaging and filters. 

A packet of cigarettes. /CFP
A packet of cigarettes. /CFP

A packet of cigarettes. /CFP


Why are cigarettes still not safe? 

Filters do not block all the bad chemicals in smoke and filtered smoke feels milder on the throat, making it easier to take bigger and deeper puffs.

Filters only help block the largest tar particles, letting through smaller bits of tar that can travel deeper into your lungs. If you smoke a cigarette with a charcoal filter, not only can you get fibers in your body, you can also get tiny bits of charcoal. 


What is the purpose of filters on cigarettes? 

The plastic cellulose acetate filter and paper modify the particulate smoke phase by particle retention. Filters are intended to reduce the harm caused by smoking by reducing harmful elements inhaled by smokers.

Hungarian inventor Boris Aivaz patented the process of making a cigarette filter from crepe paper in 1925.

Why is the European Union thinking of banning cigarette filters?

Subscribe to Storyboard: A weekly newsletter bringing you the best of CGTN every Friday

Search Trends