The California bill would ban single-use cigarette filters


California could see fewer cigarette butts and vape pods on the streets under a measure introduced on Tuesday.

Assembly Bill 1690 would ban disposable cigarette filters, e-cigarettes and vape products in the state to help the environment and public health.

“For more than half a century, tobacco filters have caused a public and environmental health crisis that has found new strength in recent years as the tobacco industry began selling electronic vape products,” said Assembly Member Luz Rivas (D-North Hollywood) . bill said in a press release on Tuesday.

“Our planet is at a critical tipping point – cigarette filters are destroying our environment like no other discarded waste, and the toxic chemicals contained in electronic vaporizers are seeping into our fragile ecosystems, while at the same time harming people’s health through hazardous smoke” , Rivas said.

The ban would authorize local prosecutors to levy a $500 fine per violation, defined as selling one to 20 items.

Proponents of the bill said cigarette butts, which aren’t biodegradable and are ubiquitous along the coast, offer no health benefits to smokers and cost Los Angeles and the state millions of dollars a year to clean up and release toxic microplastics into the environment.

About 12 billion cigarettes are sold in California each year, 90% of which are filtered, Thomas Novotny, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at San Diego State, said during a news conference on Tuesday.

Nicholas Mallos, senior director of the Trash Free Seas Program at the Ocean Conservancy, said in the release that cigarette butts accounted for nearly 30% of the litter collected by volunteers on Coastal Cleanup Day in 2020.

“In the city of Los Angeles alone, it is estimated that cigarette filter cleaning costs the city $19 million annually,” the press release said. Public agencies across the state spend approximately $41 million annually.

The bill also targets e-cigarette products, which, although advertised as single-use, contain batteries and liquids that are harmful to the environment.

“These are found in schools, and schools must treat them as hazardous waste,” Heidi Sanborn, executive director of the National Stewardship Action Council, which sponsored the law, said at the news conference.

Sanborn noted that reusable and rechargeable vape products would still be available under AB 1690.

Similar bills have previously been proposed in the legislature but have so far been unsuccessful.

“We could never get out of it [Governmental Organization] Committee here in the legislature,” Assemblyman Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) said at the conference. “The reason for this is because tobacco money makes it difficult for the lawmakers who take that money to be willing to look beyond their own interests and make sure we can get something like this through.”

Stone said he believes this time will be different, citing a “growing awareness” of the issues and a “stronger coalition” of supporters as AB 1690 goes to the assembly’s health committee.

The bill does not include a target date for the ban to come into effect.

A similar measure is proposed in the New York Legislature. The California bill would ban single-use cigarette filters

Tom Vazquez

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