It’s an interesting thought, the 5,000 or so poisonous chemicals in cigarettes can end up being leached into rivers and the sea. Cigarettes are known to be highly toxic. It is also known that fish have a good sense of smell. A letter in The Times tells me that “strong lingering odours (e.g. nicotine) can be off-putting to fish, which have a strong sense of smell”. So fish can smell nicotine and they can also be damaged by these chemicals.
An undated study entitled “Toxicity of cigarette butts, and their chemical components, to marine and freshwater fish” concluded that (1) smoked cigarette butts (2) smoked cigarette filters-no tobacco and (3) and smoked cigarette filters-no tobacco were “all found to be acutely toxic to representative marine and freshwater fish”.
The water becomes poisoned by the chemicals. Water which has been tainted by chemicals is called “leachate”. Although the study did admit that “it is difficult to assess the risk that cigarette waste may have on the actual aquatic environment” because of the difficulty in gathering evidence on the toxicity of cigarette butt leachates to various organisms.
Rain and wind can often drive cigarette butts into waterways where toxic chemicals in the cigarette filters leach out, are washed into the drainage system and watercourses and threatens water quality and the creatures that live in it.
It’s a very complicated subject and I’m not qualified to go into detail but it needs to be flagged up. Fish tend to get overlooked. They feel pain and humankind certainly overlooks that when they people kill fish by the billions annually. Even single anglers hooking up a fish, damages the fish’s lip which in turn can shorten the lifespan of the fish and cause pain. We need to flag these things up because people regard fish as inanimate objects. It certainly looks that way the way humankind treats them.