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A new Spanish environmental law will force tobacco companies to pay for the clean-up of millions of cigarette ends discarded by smokers each year, the Guardian reported Tuesday.
The legislation, set to come into force this week, will also require firms to educate the public about not discarding their cigarette butts in public spaces. Observers suggested that the measure will cause tobacco companies to pass on the cost to consumers and provide another reason to quit smoking.
The regulations are part of a larger environmental law package designed to reduce waste and increase recycling in Spain. The legislation is in line with a European Union directive that limits the use of single-use plastics and requires polluters to clean up after themselves.
Questions remain, however, on how the clean-up will be implanted and what it will cost.
Around 22 percent of Spanish people smoke, but popular opinion favors increased restrictions on smoking in public places.
About 500 Spanish beaches have been declared smoke-free in the interest of public health and to limit the number of butts that end up in the sea.
Cigarette butts are one of the most common forms of litter and need about 10 years to decompose – a process that also releases toxic chemicals such as arsenic and lead.
According to the non-governmental organization Ocean Conservancy, cigarette ends are the most common kind of marine pollution, even more so than plastic bags and bottles, with an estimated 5 billion dumped in the ocean.