What’s the next big problem with cigarettes? According to a proposed state bill in California, this time it’s not the tobacco, smoke, or carcinogens; it’s the litter. One state legislator is taking on the trash, specifically the butts, filters included, that smokers leave lying around. He’s proposing fines–but not for the smokers.
The LA Times reports that California assemblyman Mark Stone has proposed implementing a fine on the sale not of all cigarettes, but on the sale of of filtered cigarettes specifically. The bill (AB 1504) would institute a $500 fine on anyone who sells, gives, or otherwise furnishes filtered cigarettes.
The legislator’s probably-quixotic mission does stem from a pair of legitimate concerns. Firstly, filters are designed to reduce the amount of smoke and tar a smoker inhales from their cigarette. (The filters do not actually make cigarettes less horribly unhealthy every way than their unfiltered kin.) Since they exist to collect bad stuff, they are then chock-full of toxins that they themselves release if burned.
Secondly, the filters in discarded cigarette butts are made of plastics that do not biodegrade. So they have to go somewhere and be dealt with somehow. Left lying around, not only do they look terrible but also animals and children can and do eat them. Apparently between 2006 and 2008 alone, 12,600 children ate cigarettes or cigarette butts.
That collection and disposal of butts from the beach carries no small cost: Stone estimates that California spends $41 million annually on ditching cigarette-based litter.
However, a crusade against filters is an uphill battle tantamount to a crusade against cigarettes. The vast majority of widely distributed modern cigarette brands have filters; unfiltered cigarettes like Lucky Strike have a decidedly old-fashioned image. And even in the 21st century, in California, the tobacco industry still has a lot of money to use on fighting legislation it doesn’t like.