• Cigarette Filter Ban Reintroduced

    Cigarette butts are lethal to wildlife, dangerous to children, detrimental to the environment

    Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay) has introduced Assembly Bill 48, legislation that would protect wildlife and preserve California’s coast and waterways by banning cigarette filters.  Filters, commonly known as cigarette butts, do not protect smokers from cancer, emphysema, or other diseases associated with smoking; however, discarded filters create a costly and prevalent source of litter in California communities and recreational areas.

    “Cigarette filters do not provide any health benefits to smokers, but they do leach dangerous chemicals into the environment, kill wildlife, and cause communities to spend millions of taxpayer dollars for clean-up,” said Stone. “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.”

    Filtered cigarettes are just as dangerous to smokers as unfiltered cigarettes.  The US Department of Health and Human Services has reported that the filters on cigarettes have been ineffective given that smokers using filters take deeper and more frequent puffs to get the same amount of nicotine into their bodies. As early as the mid-1960s, the Surgeon General of the United States judged cigarette filters to be useless in reducing harm to the average smoker.  In fact, cigarette companies are prohibited by law from marketing or describing filters as providing health benefits:  A 2006 United States Department of Justice RICO decision against tobacco companies forbids terms including “low tar,” “light,” “ultra light,” “mild,” and “natural” along with “any other words which reasonably could be expected to result in a consumer believing that smoking the cigarette brand using that descriptor may result in a lower risk of disease or be less hazardous to health than smoking other brands of cigarettes.”

    Findings published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health report that 845,000 tons of cigarette butts wind up as litter around the globe each year. As a result of the litter, cigarette butts remain as the single most collected item of trash collected by volunteer groups and organizations that conduct parks, rivers and beach cleanup events.

    California has strong laws to deter people from littering, but people continue to discard cigarette butts on roadways, in parks, in gutters, and other places in their communities.  In California, citation rates for cigarette litter from vehicles are annually about five times the amount of citations issued for general litter from vehicles. Unsurprisingly, butts remain the single most littered item on our highways. The California Department of Transportation has estimated the costs to clean up cigarettes on roadways at $41 million annually. The City and County of San Francisco estimates its costs for cleanup at $6 million annually.

    “Banning the sale of single-use filters in California 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.   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.  I’m pleased that Assemblymember Stone has continued to work on this important issue,” said Dr. Thomas Novotny, Professor of Public Health at SDSU, Former Assistant Surgeon General in the US Public Health Service, and CEO of Cigarette Butt Pollution Project.

    Discarded cigarette filters hurt people and wildlife alike.  According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Response and Restoration, it is common for fish, birds and other animals that mistakenly eat cigarette butts to starve to death as a result of a false feeling of satiation from the plastic in the cigarette.  From 2006 to 2008, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported approximately 12,600 cases of children ingesting cigarettes or cigarette butts, especially children under six years of age.

    The measure builds upon Stone’s previous legislation from the 2013-14 legislative session.  This year’s AB 48 includes enforcement provisions to discourage black market filtered cigarette sales.

    During his time in the Assembly, Stone has emerged as a leader on environmental protection.  He has fought to curb illegal coastal development, reduce plastic pollution, and clean up drinking water supplies. As Chair of the Select Committee on Coastal Protection, he has held hearings investigating threats to the Pacific Ocean, oil spill prevention efforts, and plastic garbage effects on the coastal environment.

     

    posted to Cedar Street Times on December 1, 2014

    Topics: Front PG News

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