SACRAMENTO— Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay) has reintroduced legislation to protect California’s coast and waterways by banning cigarette filters (Assembly Bill 2308).  Filters, commonly known as butts, are made of spongy plastic and have become a costly, prevalent source of litter in California communities.

“When I first introduced this measure in 2014, tobacco companies claimed that existing anti-litter laws and industry-funded awareness programs were sufficiently addressing cigarette butt waste dangers and costs.  That’s a lie.  Cleaning up cigarette butts still costs taxpayers millions.  And what doesn’t get cleaned up leaches toxic chemicals into the environment or makes its way into the stomachs of fish and birds,” said Stone.  “There’s a simple solution to all these problems: it’s time to ban the butts.”

California has strong laws to deter people from littering, but in spite of the threat of having to pay up to $1,000 in fines and cleaning up litter for up to 24 hours, people continue to discard cigarette butts on roadways, in parks, in gutters, and other places in their communities.  In annual ocean clean-ups in 2016, cigarette butts remained the top collected item of litter in California, in the United States, and internationally.  That year, volunteers removed over 188,000 butts from California beaches alone – an increase of 34,000 butts from the previous year.

“The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is one of the most protected habitats in the country, but in spite of this, our organization has collected 626,870 cigarette butts in our clean ups since 2007,” said Katherine O’Dea, Executive Director of Save Our Shores, which is a sponsor of the measure. “Education about the dangers of this toxic litter isn’t enough to address this problem.  This bill is long overdue.”

Cigarette filters provide no health benefit to smokers.  For decades, the tobacco industry misleadingly marketed filtered cigarettes as a ‘safer’ alternative to unfiltered cigarettes. In reality, cigarette filters are useless in reducing harm to smokers according to the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Surgeon General of the United States. Researchers have also found that filters have likely contributed to the rise in occurrence of lung adenocarcinomas, a form of lung cancer that occurs deep in the lungs.

Far from protecting anyone’s health, improperly discarded cigarette butts can hurt people and kill wildlife.  When children or pets ingest cigarette butts, they can experience nicotine poisoning and can require medical treatment.  Fish, birds and other animals that eat cigarette butts can starve to death as a result of a false feeling of satiation from the plastic in the cigarette. Chemicals that leach from cigarette butts are toxic to fish and aquatic insects.

Stone has twice previously introduced legislation to ban disposable cigarette filters.  Those measures died in the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee in 2014 and 2015. 

This year’s bill includes a $500 fine for selling or furnishing black market filtered cigarettes.