Discarded cigarette butts are one of the most common types of rubbish found during beach cleans and litter surveys, while disposable vaping products are on the increase.
Both contain plastics, which when thrown away have devastating impacts on Scotland’s shorelines, seas and rivers and the creatures dependent on them.
Now ASH Scotland, the Marine Conservation Society, Zero Waste Scotland, Scottish Water and Keep Scotland Beautiful have joined forces for World No Tobacco Day today to urge Scots to properly dispose of cigarettes, vaping paraphernalia and packaging after use.
They are also calling for new laws to combat litter related to smoking and vaping.
Almost all of the 3.65 billion cigarettes smoked in Scotland each year contain a filter made from the plastic cellulose acetate.
These can take more than 10 years to decompose and also leach out thousands of toxic chemicals, which pollute seas and rivers and harm marine life.
In the last year, the Marine Conservation Society’s beach clean and litter surveys have seen volunteers remove more than 1,200 cigarette butts from 129 Scottish sites.
There has also been a noticeable rise in the quantity of disposable vaping products contributing to pollution across the country in recent months.
Catherine Gemmell, Scotland conservation officer for the Marine Conservation Society environmental charity, said: “Cigarette stubs have consistently made it into the top 12 most common items polluting Scotland’s beaches over the last five years.
“Now, with more of our volunteers reporting vaping litter, action has to be taken to stop this rising tide.
“We’re calling on Scottish Government to take world-leading legislative action to tackle single-use plastic cigarette filters and smoking litter.
“We need to encourage and support action to ensure smoking-related litter is properly disposed of, so it can’t damage the health of Scotland’s people and environment.”
Sheila Duffy, chief executive of health and anti-smoking charity ASH Scotland, said: “Cigarette filters continue to be a major source of plastics pollution with an estimated 600,000kg of waste – enough to fill 50 bin lorries – threatening Scotland’s environment each year.
“We are also increasingly concerned about the noticeable escalation of littering and pollution risks caused by discarded single-use disposable vaping products that contain single-use plastics as well as toxic chemicals and battery components.”
Kim Young, litter and fly-tipping manager at Zero Waste Scotland, said: “Any form of littering is an unacceptable, anti-social behaviour that is damaging to the environment and to the economy.
“Single-use items such as cigarette filters and vaping products can last in our environment for years and years, so it is vital that we make sure these are disposed of correctly.
“Prevention is always better than cure, and by changing our attitudes towards litter we can all make a positive difference.
“Ending Scotland’s throwaway society begins with the basics – not dropping items in our environment but in a bin, where they belong.”
According to the World Health Organization, the tobacco industry plays a big role in the global climate crisis – including chopping down 600 million trees each year to make cigarettes and contributing 84 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually.