Cal Matters: Big Tobacco and e-cigarette companies should help clean up their mess

May 13, 2019

By Heidi Sanborn, Special to CALmatters

California should have a good handle on smoking-related litter. After all, the state’s residents smoke at the second-lowest rate in the U.S. after Utah.  

There already are strong and dutifully-enforced litter laws with convictions that can carry hefty four-digit fines. But a walk down any California city sidewalk or a stroll on the beach easily demonstrates that smokers still are tossing their butts on the ground.

The truth is that California has struggled to cut cigarette butt litter for decades. But with the rise in popularity of small cigars with plastic filters and e-cigarettes, the waste problem is getting worse.

Many smokers who snub a cigarette in a parking lot don’t realize that the filters are plastic and stay in the environment long after the paper wrapping, glue, and leftover tobacco have dissolved.

The filters are made from spongy acetate plastic fibers that don’t decompose, and studies show they may actually be worse for your health than no filter at all.  

Other than the visual blight, you might ask, is this a big deal?