Marine Life and Smoking: How Tobacco Affects the Creatures of our Waters
Smoking affects more than human beings. It affects more than our bodies, our homes, and our environments. Smoking’s damage reaches far beyond the borders of our lands, and enters our waters. The dangers from tobacco use has spread so vastly throughout our planet, virtually nowhere is safe from its ill effects. Marine life has been put at risk by cigarette remains and litter such as butts, packaging, and their chemical composition as a whole. Aquatic life such as dolphins, fish, whales, porpoises, crustaceans, and more are under threat from smoking-related debris. Numerous other forms of sea life including plankton, seaweed, and coral reefs are also put at risk.
Marine Life at Risk
Marine life is put at risk in numerous ways. Sea turtles, for example, may eat plastic items such as the wrapping of a cigarette pack believing it to be small jelly fish. Sea turtles are but one of the millions of species at risk. Plastic can be accidentally ingested by fish, sharks, dolphins, whales, porpoises, and other aquatic life. This plastic can get lodged in their intestinal tract, preventing digestion. It can block airways causing suffocation. It can also accumulate, causing the animal to believe it is full, which leads to starvation.
Plastic ingestion is one way our marine friends are put at risk. Cigarette butts are another. According to Stockton.edu, due to the chemical composition of cigarette filters, once they are introduced to water they immediately begin to leak arsenic, acetone, ammonia, benzene, cadmium, formaldehyde, lead, and toluene. These chemicals are highly poisonous, essentially being able to kill all life the chemicals come into contact with.
Litter and Removal
According to No-Smoke, information collected from the Ocean Conservancy illustrated that approximately 3,216,991 cigarettes or cigarette butts were collected from beaches and inland waterways globally in 2009. This was done during the annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC). In light of this, 1,362,741 cigarettes and butts were removed from the United States alone. There were other cigarette-related items that were further collected from U.S. waterways, as well. They include but are not limited to 18,555 cigarette lighters, 74,399 cigar tips, and 36,397 tobacco packages.
These items do much more than demonstrate the amount of litter which makes it to our shores. This demonstrates that a much larger percentage of smoking-related debris remains in the sea, posing major risks to our beloved marine life. These aquatic creatures are vital to the circle of life that maintains our oceanic ecosystems. All marine life is dependent on one another in order to maintain their delicate ecosystems. When foreign toxins are introduced, it disrupts the entire chain. This could lead to irreparable damage in the long-term.
We are asking for everyone to come together in order to help stop the destruction of our oceans, and to help save the lives of millions of marine species. They depend on us to correct the wrongs we have made. Our decisions as a people have put the oceans at risk, bringing them to a dangerous crossroads. This is our chance to make right what was done wrong. Our oceans and the life that dwells within it did not create the litter and debris that has led to this tragedy, humans did. It is our job to come together for the future of our waters, the future of our marine life, and the future of our planet.