Cigarette packs are no longer collector's items.

Since the European Union issued its current tobacco directive nine years ago, two thirds of the area has had to bear warning signs.

Since then, smokers have seen photos with rotten teeth or diseased lung tissue and lettering that remind them of the deadly danger of their vice.

But that's not all: According to information from WELT AM SONNTAG, an EU directive will soon add another warning symbol.

This time it's about cigarette filters and plastic waste.

Long-lasting cellulose acetate

In fact, cigarette butts are a particular garbage problem.

The filters consist of cellulose acetate, among other things, which is durable and only decomposes after many years.

From the point of view of the cigarette industry, the acetate is necessary to reduce or filter out toxins when the cigarette is burned.


The European Union wants to ensure that these residues and toxins no longer find their way into the soil and water bodies via street garbage in previous quantities.

According to calculations by Stadtreinigung Hamburg for the whole of Germany, around 137 million cigarette butts land on German roads and streets every day.

To change this, the European Commission has included cigarette filters in its single-use plastic directive.

As early as next summer, cigarette packets should receive a warning - the starting point is July 3, 2021.

The EU paper for this is entitled "Reducing the impact of certain plastic products on the environment" and is available to WELT AM SONNTAG.

You can see a pictogram of the warning sign: A sign on a red background shows a warning against flicking the cigarette butts with your fingers into the environment.

At least 3.92 square centimeters


In addition, a crossed-out butt and a turtle below can be seen on a blue background.

Obviously, the Commission wants to warn against throwing cigarette butts in water and the danger to marine animals.

Under the two pictures it says “Plastic in Filter”, plastic in the filter.

In the EU paper, the size of the notice with at least 3.92 square centimeters is just as precisely specified as the type of colors or the font size and the Helvetica font.

If the pictogram does not fit horizontally on the back of the cigarette pack, it can also be affixed vertically, it says there.

Don't flip it away: the new warning notice on cigarette packets

Source: European Commission

Time is of the essence to implement this in good time, and from the cigarette industry's point of view it is running out.

Because actually the EU wanted to issue a so-called implementation act last July.

This should now happen in January 2021.

However, the specification must then still be transferred into German law.

"In order for the implementation to work well, we need twelve months' lead time from the passage of the law," says the tobacco company Reemtsma.


At the beginning of next year, however, it was “clearly too late”.

In addition, the tobacco industry doubts whether the labeling of the packaging can make a contribution to consumer education.

According to the industry, only one percent of the waste in Germany is cigarette butts, half of which ends up in the household waste.

Tobacco industry doubts the sense

But the warning is only a first step.

The federal government wants to involve the tobacco companies in the removal of cigarette waste through a so-called extended manufacturer responsibility.

The Federal Environment Ministry is in charge of this.

According to a calculation commissioned by the ministry, cleaning costs for cigarette butts are EUR 225 million annually.

The industry only comes to a tenth of this sum.

If it goes according to the plans of the politicians, the cigarette industry will in future bear the costs of garbage collection and the recycling of the cigarette butts.

In addition, it should support the municipalities in raising smokers' awareness of the topic.

A solution for this should be found by the end of 2022 at the latest.

So far, the tobacco industry has refused to participate directly in the garbage cleaning costs and refers to 14 billion euros in tobacco taxes for Germany.

Some of it can be used for garbage disposal, it says there.

The cigarette seller British American Tobacco recently distributed tinplate ashtrays on the beach in the summer months on the beaches of the Baltic Sea and North Sea or at concerts so that smokers can dispose of their butts.

That will no longer be enough to solve the problem.

This text is from WELT AM SONNTAG.

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