A new Assembly bill would ban all filtered cigarettes in California.
Assemblyman Mark Stone says he’s approaching this not as a health issue, but as an environmental issue: Discarded butts are sullying the state and costing millions.
“Cigarette filters leach dangerous chemicals into the environment, kill animals that eat them, and cause communities to spend millions of taxpayer dollars for clean-up,” Stone, D-Santa Cruz, said in a news release issued Tuesday. “California has many laws in place to curtail cigarette litter, but people continue to illegally discard tons of cigarette butts each year. The current laws aren’t sufficient to address this major problem.”
Unfiltered cigarettes would remain legal under Stone’s bill. Stone spokeswoman Arianna Smith noted filters for decades have been reported to be ineffective, given that smokers who use them take deeper and more frequent puffs to get the same amount of nicotine into their bodies.
Spokespeople for tobacco giants Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds didn’t immediately respond to inquiries about the bill.
Stone – who chairs the Assembly Select Committee on Coastal Protection – said a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health reported 845,000 tons of cigarette butts become litter around the globe each year. In California, they remain the single most collected item of trash collected by volunteer groups and organizations that conduct parks, rivers and beach cleanup events.
“Our volunteers have collected 466,000 cigarette butts in our clean-ups just around the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary alone since 2007,” Laura Kasa, executive director of Save Our Shores, said in Stone’s release. “This is by far the most pervasive type of litter in our environment. Our community has attempted to educate the public about the dangers of this toxic litter but it has not made a significant dent in the problem.”
The California Department of Transportation has estimated the costs to clean up cigarettes on roadways at $41 million annually, Stone said, while San Francisco estimates its costs for cleanup at $6 million annually.
“An estimated 3 billion toxic, plastic cigarette butts are littered in the Bay Area each year,” Allison Chan, pollution prevention campaign manager for Save The Bay, said in Stone’s release. “Millions of them make their way into our waterways and the Bay through storm water systems, where they pose an environmental threat that we can no longer ignore.”
Dr. Thomas Novotny – a San Diego State University professor and former Assistant U.S. Surgeon General who is CEO of the Cigarette Butt Pollution Project – said in Stone’s release that such a ban “will substantially reduce the burden of cigarette butt waste cleanup for our communities, help protect our treasured beaches and wildlife, and reduce blight in our urban living environments.”
UPDATE @ 3:43 P.M.: David Sutton, a spokesman for Philip Morris USA’s parent company, said in an email that the tobacco giant “knows that cigarettes are often improperly disposed of,” and uses its packaging and websites to discourage smokers from littering. The company also since 2002 has collaborated with Keep America Beautiful to launch a Cigarette Litter Prevention Program, which in 2012 rolled out 195 new grant-supported programs across the nation.
“During the past six years, CLPP consistently has cut cigarette butt litter by half based on local community measurements taken in the first four to six months after implementation, as measured by Keep America Beautiful,” Sutton wrote. “Survey results also showed that as communities continue to monitor the program, those reductions are sustained or even increased over time.”