Even as many smokers kick the habit, cigarette stubs remain the most prevalent form of litter blighting in our towns and countryside.
The scourge is so extensive that the bill for cleaning up the mess is precisely calculated at around £40 million a year.
With the burden of that cost falling mainly on already strained councils, ministers are now considering forcing tobacco firms to pay an additional tax to help finance the cleanup but attempts to get the industry to voluntarily take fiscal responsibility for the disposal of butts and other rubbish have been unsuccessful.
Other possible solutions such as encouraging smokers to carry around portable ashtrays have, unsurprisingly, also never taken off.
Cigarette filters are particularly damaging because of their high content of plastic fibres and the toxic chemicals from the cigarette itself, and butts can linger in the environment for numerous years and deliver these chemicals into the air, soil and water, harming plants and wildlife.
Imposing a tax on single-use plastic, which a cigarette butt effectively is, would be made possible by a novel power currently being legislated for in the Environment Bill.
This would require the tobacco industry to fund the full disposal costs, with the Government leaning towards a tax to ensure that the industry takes sufficient fiscal responsibility for the litter created by its products.
The move mirrors endeavours to tax chewing gum, which also costs millions to clean off streets every year.
And it comes as Keep Britain Tidy launches the Great British Spring Clean, proudly supported by the Daily Mail, the national litter picking effort which takes place between May 28 and June 13 this year.
Environment minister Rebecca Pow said that cigarette butts are a scourge on our communities, dirtying our streets or ending up washed down the drain and contaminating our waterways and oceans.
She said that we must all take action to preserve the environment and that they’re committed to making sure that the tobacco industry plays its part, and that was why they were exploring how cigarette companies could be held fully accountable for the hideous scourge of litter created by their products.
Public health minister Jo Churchill added that they’re making remarkable progress in their ambition to be a smoke-free nation by 2030 and that while this is making a real impression on public health, the environmental repercussions of smoking due to cigarette stubs and package littering was still a significant issue.
But it’s not only tobacco companies that are at fault, it’s other companies as well that manufacture foods with plastic coverings et cetera. And what about forcing a fine on those companies when people throw away crisp packets or coke cans on the street, so this is a stupid idea.
You could, however, penalise the person that throws the item away, but then councils should make sure there’s enough cash in the pot to put more waste bins in so that people can throw their waste away in the first place, that way there wouldn’t be any abdication of personal responsibility by manufacturers or councils, only the person who casts the item on the ground without any consideration for anyone else or the environment itself.
If they make cigarette companies responsible, then are mask makers going to have to pick up their trash – will take out places have to pick up their boxes and containers, because you can’t make one company responsible and not another, but then that’s what litter pickers are for, and it keeps them in a job, where they certainly don’t get enough money for what they do!