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A load of rubbish: tobacco-related litter costs Vic economy $25.7m per year

Posted 15 Aug, 2018

An economic analysis has revealed that tobacco-related litter costs the Victorian economy $25.7 million every year. 

That’s equivalent to $41.95 per smoker per year for the costs of collecting butts, cellophane wrapping, foil inserts and packaging.

The costs of remediating damage to the environment and wildlife are not included in the estimate.

Keep Australia Beautiful Chief Executive Val Southam said the costs and environmental destruction caused by cigarette litter were alarming.

“Cigarette butts are the number one littered item in Australia with around 7 billion butts carelessly thrown into the environment each year. Meanwhile, butts and cigarette packaging represent 41% of all litter items collected,” Ms Southam said.

“Cigarette butts are not biodegradable – in fact, they leach chemicals as they decompose, contributing to the degradation of our natural environment and causing serious damage to our pets and wildlife if ingested.” 

Environmental Protection Agency Executive Director Tim Eaton said discarded cigarette butts are an environmental hazard. 

“More than three quarters of all litter reports to EPA involve cigarette butts tossed from vehicles. They pollute the aquatic environment after being transported from stormwater drains and beaches to streams and rivers,” Mr Eaton said. 

“As well as choking our waterways, cigarette butts also contaminate soil, and endanger native wildlife. We need to stop polluting our precious environment by eliminating smoking and the toxic litter that comes with it.”

Quit Victoria Director Dr Sarah White said the sustainable solution to the issue of tobacco-related litter is reducing smoking rates in Australia by supporting people to quit for good.

“If we are truly committed to keeping Australia beautiful, we must work together to support the 2.6 million Australians who currently smoke to quit successfully,” Dr White said. 

“Helping people quit is a really easy way to reduce the significant costs and environmental damage caused by tobacco-related litter and create a healthier population and environment.”

The litter-related costs were derived from an analysis of the tangible social costs of smoking for Victoria, which are estimated to be around $3.7b per annum. The analysis suggests that reducing daily smoking in Victoria to a prevalence of 5% would result in the saving of $4.042 billion in tangible costs by 2025. 

For more quitting advice, visit or call the Quitline on 13 7848.

Target 2025 – Countdown to a tobacco-free Victoria is an evidence-based forecast of the benefits of achieving a 5% daily smoking rate by 2025. 

Quit Victoria is a partnership between VicHealth, the State Government of Victoria, Cancer Council Victoria and the Heart Foundation. For more information, visit:

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