Geographic Patterns of Cigarette Butt Waste in the Urban Environment (2011)

Authors: Maacah Marah, Thomas E Novotny


Background: This reports the initial phase of a study to quantify the spatial pattern of cigarette butt waste in an urban environment.

Methods: Geographic Information Systems (GIS) was used to create a weighted overlay analysis model which was then applied to the locations of businesses where cigarettes are sold or are likely to be consumed and venues where higher concentrations of butts may be deposited. The model’s utility was tested using a small-scale litter audit in three zip codes of San Diego, California.

Results: We found that cigarette butt waste is highly concentrated around businesses where cigarettes are sold or consumed. The mean number of butts for predicted high waste sites was 38.1 (SD 18.87), for predicted low waste sites mean 4.8 (SD 5.9), p<0.001.

Conclusions: Cigarette butt waste is not uniformly distributed in the urban environment, its distribution is linked to locations and patterns of sales and consumption. A GIS and weighted overlay model may be a useful tool in predicting urban locations of greater and lesser amounts of cigarette butt waste. These data can in turn be used to develop economic cost studies and plan mitigation strategies in urban communities.

Read more: Tobacco Control