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Banning Butts: The Environmental Case

Institution: University of California, San Francisco
Investigator(s): Thomas Novotny, M.D., MPH
Award Cycle: 2008 (Cycle 17) Grant #: 17IT-0014 Award: $54,040
Subject Area: Public Health, Public Policy, and Economics
Award Type: Inno Dev & Exp Awards (IDEAS)

Initial Award Abstract
Cigarette filters are perceived by much of the public to significantly reduce health risk and even provide positive health benefits. However, filters serve to sustain smoking by making it less urgent to quit and easier to smoke or initiate because of reduced irritation. They obscure the true risks of smoking by presenting a 'safe' alternative to unfiltered cigarettes. In addition to these issues, cigarette filters are toxic solid waste; they are essentially non-biodegradable litter, washing from streets to drains to rivers to the beaches. They are the number one single item collected each year during the international beach cleanup days, and they contribute to environmental blight on streets, sidewalks, and other open areas. It may be possible to consider banning the sale of filtered cigarettes on environmental grounds, especially in California where beaches are impacted by this litter and where smoking indoors is nearly impossible.

The overall aim of this IDEA proposal is to describe and evaluate all the various options to reduce butt litter, including taxes, fines, enforcement, public information campaigns, deposits on cigarette butts, and banning the sale of non-biodegradable filters. One other aim is to develop information on the behavioral and health impact of simply banning the sale of filtered cigarettes in the State of California.