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Tobacco Industry Responsibility for Butts

Just Released: Tobacco Industry Responsibility for Butts: A Model Tobacco Waste Act

For decades, and with cigarette sales now at more than six trillion in 2016, the tobacco industry has refused to accept any responsibility for the recycling or safe disposal of tobacco product waste (TPW), despite serious damage to the global environment, as well as human health. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), first implemented in western Europe in the early 1990’s, is a major force for sustainable commerce in many countries. It requires producers of several consumer products with toxic properties, including batteries, electronics, leftover paints and pesticide containers, to be responsible throughout their product’s life cycle for liability as well as financial, physical and informational management.

The tobacco industry’s position has always been that “the responsibility for proper disposal” of tobacco waste belongs to the smoker. But we’re talking about trillions of cigarettes being smoked each year, 1/3rd to 2/3rds of which are commonly, unconsciously and inexcusably dumped into the environment. As the most littered item in the world, those nasty little cigarette butts are everywhere – in streets, parks, storm drains, buildings, waterways, beaches, coastal waters and elsewhere. The tobacco industry sponsors anti-litter groups and an affiliated Keep America Beautiful, distributes portable ashtrays with their logos, and installs permanent ashtrays in downtown areas of numerous cities, but those actions have had no serious impact in solving a gargantuan problem.

Tobacco control, environmental, and public health groups need to join forces in holding the tobacco industry accountable for the toxic mess it has caused. That’s what this model law is designed to help jump start. The journal article, “Tobacco Industry Responsibility for Butts: A Model Tobacco Waste Act” introduces and summarizes key elements of the model law, while the model law itself establishes a holistic EPR based program for safe cleanup and disposal. The visual summary of the model law’s key provisions is an excellent entry point, as is the 4-minute video.

There are other stakeholders who also have complementary responsibilities, including growers, tobacco users, suppliers and government. However, the tobacco industry’s failure to exercise core responsibility for preventing, reducing and mitigating environmental impacts throughout tobacco’s life cycle needs to end as soon as possible. This model law will also reduce tobacco use and its health consequences by raising attention to the environmental hazards of TPW.

PS: Please share this information with policy makers and other colleagues who might be interested in these issues.

Along with butt waste being toxic, sheesha water and post consumption waste is also now subject of toxicity  research

Abstract: Shisha (also known as hookah, narghile or waterpipe) is a popular tobacco smoking device in South Asia and Middle East. Smoked shisha water, flavored (FSW) and non-flavored (NFSW) was analyzed for their environmental contamination potential using Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS). Eighteen toxic elements were detected in the samples including arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury and uranium. The levels of toxic elements were found to be higher in NFSW in comparison with FSW. Shisha tobacco, non-flavored (NFT) and flavored (FT), was also analyzed. Pattern of element levels in NFSW and FSW was similar with element levels in NFT and FT, respectively. Data indicate that the release of shisha water, either NSFW or FSW, into the environment may contribute to the accumulation of several toxic elements in soil and water. The present investigation provide a basis for further investigation of shisha water to assure whether regulatory measures are needed to handle this issue.

Check out the full article here:

AB 1504 – Legislation to ban cigarette filters

Assembly member Mark Stone (District 29-Monterey Bay) has recently introduced AB 1504, legislation aimed at preventing the toxic waste that are cigarette butts from ending up as litter in our state by taking the cigarette butts out of the equation to begin with. At first glance, this proposal seems to some as counterintuitive, but, as research shows, so-called filters do nothing to prevent harm to smokers while at the same time becoming a huge burden to taxpayers and our environment. At the following links you will find a fact sheet for the bill and a sample of what news outlets have already said about AB 1504 (with more articles expected right around the corner).

 Get the Fact Sheet, Template Letter and Resolution, and AB 1504 in the News here.



50 Years Later, Cigarettes and Butts Remain a Major Problem

In conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General’s first report on the devastating health and financial burdens of smoking, CBPP is drawing attention to the continuing toxic burden of tobacco product waste and cigarette butts in the environment.

Click here to read the press release. →

Check out CBPP’s October Newsletter!

Hot off the press! Click here to read the newsletter.

Universities Going Smoke FreeSDSU smoker

San Diego State University (SDSU) is one of the many California campuses going smoke free! SDSU will be implementing a new campus-wide smoking ban after getting the green light from university President Elliot Hirshman.  The smoking ban was approved by the University Senate in April and has been under review by employee unions on campus.  According to Assistant to the Vice President of Business and Financial Affairs, Nancy Demich, the ban is moving forward into the implementation stage. The smoking ban will go to a committee headed by Associate Vice President of Operations Robert Schulz in the first week of October to work out logistics. Go to the Daily Aztec to read the full article by clicking here.

Cigarette Eater Meter Collects 50,000 Buttsnmij0829cigs

Three months after its installation, a public art piece called a “cigarette eater meter” has collected 50,000 cigarette butts and in turn raised money for a local nonprofit. The 7-foot-tall meter was placed in the San Rafael city plaza as part of an effort by the San Rafael Clean Coalition to get litter off city streets. The coalition, a group of organizations and volunteers focused on keeping the city clean, wants people to retrain themselves not to throw cigarette leftovers on the ground.  Every cigarette butt deposited equals a one cent donation for the St. Vincent de Paul Society, which helps and feeds homeless residents. For more information, click here.

CTCP Contest

Student Photo Contest to Fight Tobacco in California

The California Department of Public Health, California Tobacco Control Program (CDPH/CTCP) has launched the Tobacco and Its Impact in My Community photo contest to promote awareness of how the presence of tobacco is still a problem in California. The goal is to showcase images submitted by California students that “tell the story” about tobacco control issues that significantly impact youth and disadvantaged communities. The issues include exposure to secondhand smoke, cigarette butt litter, and tobacco marketing in the retail environment. Click here to learn more or to enter the contest! →

Flickus andwastus

Coastal Cleanup Day 2013 picks up 500,000 pounds of litter, including many cigarette butts!

During 2013 California Coastal Cleanup Day, which took place on September 21, more than 51,000 volunteers picked up in excess of 500,000 pounds of trash from California beaches. As usual, cigarette butts were one of the most common items picked up. The Coastal Cleanup Day was organized by the California Coastal Commission, in cooperation with organizations and individuals across the State. Media advertisements about the event included posters and images of cigarette butts, including the ever present butt species “Flickus andwastus”. Visit the California Coastal Commissions 2013 Coastal Cleanup site here for more information →


CBPP President Tom Novotny presents TedX Talk in Spain

A modest proposal….CBPP President and CEO Tom Novotny was invited to give a presentation on cigarette butt litter at an independently-organized TED talk, called TEDx, in Sant Antoni de Portmany, Spain on May 4, 2013. TEDx events are organized to serve the original TED mission of “Ideas Worth Spreading”. View the TEDx event here →

New Video Highlights Cigarette Butts as Toxic Waste

The American Legacy Foundation and the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics have teamed up to produce and release an edgy new video highlighting cigarette butts as a source of toxic pollutants. In a related interview with the New York Times, Legacy Foundation President and CBPP Board Member Cheryl Healton says “We have to change societal norms in terms of littered cigarette butts”. You can view the video on YouTube →

The Tobacco Waste Toolkit is now available!

CBPP and the California Tobacco Control Program have teamed up to produce the Tobacco Waste Reduction Toolkit.  The Toolkit is intended to mobilize communities, including tobacco control advocates, environmental groups, businesses, and local governments, to address discarded cigarette butts in the environment.  The toolkit includes tips and steps for successful cleanup surveys, strengthening partnerships, and how to educate and advocate for tobacco-free policies. The toolkit is a compilation of past successes, lessons learned, statewide resources, templates, a how-to guide for geographic information systems, and so much more!  Check out the toolkit here →

Legacy Foundation Launches “Rethink Butts” media campaign

On Earth Day, 2013, the Legacy Foundation and their partners at the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics initiated a new “Rethink Butts” media campaign to combat cigarette butt litter in the environment.  Check out their website and share the PSA and information there!  Visit the website →

San Diego State University Going Smoke-Free

March 27, 2013. CBPP President Tom Novotny was interviewed as part of a story on successful efforts to transform San Diego State University to a smoke-free campus. See the story and video here →.

TerraCycle and Big Tobacco

CBPP President Tom Novotny and CBPP Board Member Clifton Curtis responded to an April 30 blog entry in the New York Times by TerraCycle’s CEO regarding a new deal they’ve struck with Big Tobacco. Read an expanded critique of the deal here →

Butt Really Campaign

In advance of Earth Day 2011, the Cigarette Butt Pollution Project (, the National Cancer Institute (, University of California Tobacco Related Disease Research Program (, and Legacy® ( jointly sponsored a special supplement to the journal, Tobacco Control, which confirms the toxic impact cigarette butts have on the environment. Cigarette butts contaminate waterways and ecosystems, and leach heavy metals that pose health threats to humans and animals. This research brings together the current science about cigarette butt pollution and sets the stage for a new research and advocacy agenda focused both on preserving the environment and protecting our public health. On April 19, 2011, Legacy hosted a Warner Series Lecture featuring CBPP President Tom Novotny and three other experts that focused on how public health experts, policy leaders, environmental activists and even the tobacco industry can help prevent and put an end to this type of toxic waste.

To download the special supplement, watch the viral video “Butt Really”, or view an archive of the Warner Series panel discussion, visit: