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Cigarette Butt Advisory Group Meeting 11/2/11

Institution: Cigarette Butt Pollution Project
Investigator(s): Thomas Novotny, M.D., MPH
Award Cycle: 2011 (Cycle 20) Grant #: 20ST-0168 Award: $4,995
Subject Area: Environmental Exposure/Toxicology
Award Type: Special Projects

Initial Award Abstract
Cigarette butts are the most common form of litter in the world and are the most prevalent debris item collected from waterways during the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanups. In the United States, an estimated 360 billion cigarettes were consumed in 2007. In the United States, an estimated 360 billion cigarettes were consumed in 2007, and it has been estimated that 1 in every 3 cigarettes smoked are discarded as environmental waste. Furthermore, butts comprise an estimated 30% of the total waste (by count) on beaches, along U.S. shorelines, waterways, and on land. Cigarette butt waste is also blight in urban environments, thereby posing an additional economic burden (or "externality") for cities, communities, and businesses, particularly those communities with higher smoking rates, low socioeconomic status, and lack of environmental services. An "externality" occurs whenever the activities of one economic agent (the tobacco industry) affect the activities of another agent (communities) in ways that are not taken into account by the operation of the market. When these activities are harmful to one of the economic agents, and the harmed agent is not compensated, we typically refer to it as a "negative externality". Butt waste and other tobacco product litter are considered a "negative externality" in that the market prices for cigarettes generally do not reflect the costs incurred by third parties for the management and disposal of this waste. Tobacco waste is the post-consumer cigarette product at "end-of-life". Thus, it should be the responsibility of the tobacco industry to manage its disposal, as it is the tobacco industry that has profited from the product and has created the negative environmental externalities associated with its use. EPR is a policy principle to promote total life cycle environmental improvements of product systems by extending the responsibilities of the manufacturer of the product to various parts of the entire life cycle of the product, and especially to the take-back, recycling, and final disposal of the product. EPR closes the loop back onto the producer for responsibility for a waste product. It encourages the producer's adoption of sustainable product design, product take-back, recycling, reuse, and disposal in their end-of-life products. It is cheaper and safer to design non-hazardous products than to clean them up after use. It also embodies the "polluter pays" principle, shifting waste management costs from the public sector back to the private sector, instead of local government and the general taxpayer. The Cigarette Butt Pollution Project proposes to conduct a two-day meeting on December 1-2, 2011, based on TRDRP Priority 5: To advance the ability of communities throughout California to assess and limit the influence of the tobacco industry. The aims of this meeting will be: 1. To convene the Cigarette Butt Advisory Group of legal, environmental and tobacco control experts, along with guest experts, to discuss the applicability of the environmental principle, "Extended Producer Responsibility", with a view to identifying its potential to help achieve cigarette butt-waste mitigation policies in California. 2. To develop a tobacco control research strategy based on Extended Producer Responsibility that will expand the ability of tobacco control partners in California to hold the tobacco industry accountable for the environmental burden of tobacco butt waste. This meeting will allow TRDRP-funded and potentially funded researchers to delve more deeply into the issue of EPR as it pertains to tobacco litter control. This will then produce a research agenda on EPR policies that can be adapted by California tobacco control researchers for applications to TRDRP and other funding groups to prevent, reduce and eliminate the impact of the tobacco industry and its cigarette butt waste on the environment.