Politics & Government

Cigarette butt ban bill extinguished in committee

Filtered cigarettes will keep burning in California for the foreseeable future.

An Assembly committee on Wednesday resoundingly voted down legislation that would ban cigarette filters in an attempt to limit litter.

Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, framed Assembly Bill 1504 not as a public health measure but as a way to fight the scourge of cigarette-generated waste clogging California’s waterways and dotting its beaches.

Since research does not conclusively prove that filters protect smokers from lung cancer and other smoking-related diseases, Stone argued, stubbing out the filters would be a public good.

“There’s really no health benefit to the smoker to having the filter there, so what I’m trying to deal with in this bill is what happens once the smoker casts aside their cigarette,” Stone said.

Stone argued that current anti-littering laws, including a $1,000 fine for pitching butts into the environment, have done little to dissuade smokers.

“Next time you’re driving in the evening and you see that little orange arc flicked out of a car window, recognize that that person who flicked the cigarette out of the window is facing a $1,000 fine,” Stone said. “It’s a smoke and toss habit. They will continue to toss.”

But other lawmakers on the Governmental Organization Committee said that Stone’s tactic was too broad and could carry unintended consequences like decreasing revenue for the state, increasing health and fire risks or shunting more smokers into the black market.

“Even though I agree with you that the cigarette butt is a huge problem in the community, I disagree with the approach,” said Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, the committee’s chair. “There are currently enough fines on the books to address some of the littering issues you have.”

Opponents included the California Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, whose representatives argued that a California-specific standard would put a costly burden on businesses.

“It’s a de facto ban on smoking in California,” said Ken DeVore, a lobbyist with the California branch of the National Federation of Independent Businesses.