Proposed California Bill Aims to Ban Cigarette Butts

By Shawn Dwyer 01/30/14

The new law would impose a heavy fine for selling or giving away filtered cigarettes in the Golden State.

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Assembly Bill 1504, which was introduced two weeks ago by Monterey Assembly Member Mark Stone, would make it illegal for a person or store from selling or in any way distributing filtered cigarettes designed to be discarded after a single use. The fine proposed would be $500 for each violation.

"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," said Stone in a press release. "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."

Former Assistant Surgeon General Dr. Thomas Novotny, now CEO of the Cigarette Butt Pollution Project, applauded the move. "Cigarette butts are the most commonly collected waste item in the world, and with this legislation, California can show how the volume of this waste and its impact on the environment can be substantially reduced," he said.

Naturally, the cigarette manufacturers disapproved of the bill. David Sutton, a spokesperson for leading cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris USA, pointed to a 2009 federal law that allows only the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to set standards for the manufacturing, distribution, and marketing of tobacco products. "Simply put, by banning filters, the bill is attempting to change a significant component of a tobacco product that Congress has determined only the FDA has the authority to regulate," Sutton said.

It is estimated that around 845,000 tons of cigarette butts are discarded improperly worldwide every year, with approximately three billion tossed around the San Francisco Bay Area alone. Cigarette clean up costs the state $41 million annually.

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.