Reader Question: Cigarette Butts
What diseases and viruses can an infant get from putting a used cigarette butt in their mouth? My family doubts my statements on facts of this and I need to show them.
Bacteria and viruses can live outside the body for a short time, depending on the type of pathogen, and the surface they are on. Most need moisture to survive, so humidity and surface moisture can affect the survival time.
Salmonella survives 1-4 hours on surfaces, but e-coli, staph, strep, tuberculosis and others may survive for months.
Most viruses will survive only hours to days outside a host. Herpes is infectious for minutes to hours, cold viruses and flu viruses survive hours to days. Some others, such as norovirus may survive days to weeks. Polio virus or rotavirus can last months.
Infectious yeast can survive for weeks to months. Dermatophytes such as athlete’s foot may survive for many months.
Cigarette butts are the most common form of litter in many countries. They come into contact with saliva and may be seen as an infectious risk. Diseases on a cigarette butt last from minutes up to 96 hours. Picking up a butt is safe for people with a healthy immune system, but sharing cigarettes can spread illness, and putting a used cigarette butt into your mouth can pose a risk.
Though you can’t always avoid catching or spreading an illness, there are ways to reduce the risks.
- Wash your hands well and regularly; after using the toilet, before handling food, after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose, after handling anything suspected to be contaminated.
- Keep living areas clean. Household cleaners will kill most infectious diseases if surfaces are cleaned thoroughly.
- Wash fabrics that may be contaminated with hot water (140°F) and bleach-based detergent.
Lamar K. Gerber, University of Cincinnati
Kramer A, Schwebke I, Kampf G. How long do nosocomial pathogens persist on inanimate surfaces? A systematic review. BMC Infect Dis. 2006;6:130.
Doctor ~W. Can you get diseases from cigarette butts in public ashtrays? http://answers.yahoo.com/