Californians could soon see fewer cigarettes littering the streets. A proposed bill aims to ban the sale of single-use tobacco components, such as vape and e-cigarette products and filters commonly found in cigars and cigarettes.
The bill—Assembly Bill 1690—was introduced by Assemblymember Luz Rivas. If passed, it would prohibit “a person or entity from selling, giving, or furnishing” a tobacco product that features a single-use filter.
Rivas stressed the bill would not ban the sale of tobacco or marijuana in the state. It would, however, help tackle the environmental repercussions of cigarette litter. Cigarette filters are made from cellulose acetate, a type of plastic that can take up to 10 years to degrade. Cigarette butts also contain toxic chemicals—such as formaldehyde, arsenic, and lead—which can leach out into the surrounding environment.
“For more than half a century, tobacco filters have caused a public and environmental health crisis that found renewed vigor in recent years as the tobacco industry began to sell electronic vape products,” Rivas explained.
Those found guilty of violating the prohibitions could face a $500 civil fine.
California tackles cigarette waste
New York introduced a similar bill last year to ban filtered cigarettes. But California is often a leader in passing precedent-setting legislation. The impact of the state’s proposed bill could be far-reaching.
In October 2021, California became the first state in the nation to pass a law requiring accurate advertising for products labeled as “recyclable.”
The state also passed a composting law that will help prevent 17.7 million tons of organic food waste from going to the landfill, where it generates methane. The law mandates that residents must separate food waste from their trash.
Cigarette butts are one of the most commonly littered products in the world. According to California’s tobacco control program Tobacco Free CA, 1.69 billion pounds goes to waste around the world each year.
A study by California’s Department of Transportation found that cigarette butts make up 34 percent of all captured waste. In 2010 alone, more than one million cigarettes were removed from state beaches and inland waterways.
Littering is illegal in California, as it is in most states. But Assemblymember Mark Stone, who helped introduce the new bill, says litter laws aren’t enough. “The smokers: They smoke and they toss. They risk a $1,000 fine by flicking a cigarette out of a vehicle, or throwing it on the beach, or out into the environment anywhere and that’s not a deterrent at all,” Stone said.