Del. Jon S. Cardin to Introduce Bill Banning Non-Biodegradable Cigarette Butts

Del. Jon S. Cardin to Introduce Bill Banning Non-Biodegradable Cigarette Butts

Cardin says we must ban toxic cigarette butts to ensure clean air to breath and clean water to drink for children and families

Annapolis, MD – Delegate Jon S. Cardin plans to introduce a bill to prohibit the sale of non-biodegradable cigarettes in the State of Maryland beginning January 1, 2015. To enforce the ban, the bill creates a fine of up to $200 per cigarette pack for business selling non-biodegradable cigarettes and gives the Attorney General the authority to enforce the law through civil legal actions. Maryland would become the first state to ban non-biodegradable cigarettes.

On the need for an outright ban, Delegate Cardin said, “toxic cigarette butts make up the most littered item worldwide. They are synthetic and never degrade naturally. They only dissipate and can take 10-15 years to break down. This means the typical cigarette butt will pollute our Bay, our streams and our oceans for no less than 10 years. We can and we must do a lot better than that.

“We have made progress in lowering smoking rates, but we have done little to reduce overall pollution caused by cigarettes. For example, everyone knows not to toss their empty food wrapper or soda can out the car window or at the bus stop, but why doesn't that apply to cigarette butts?  I hope this effort raises our collective environmental consciousness so that every time you see someone toss their butt from the car window you get as upset as I do that they are polluting our Bay.

“Unfortunately, outdoor ashtrays, tobacco taxes and banning smoking in bars and other public places do not eliminate the toxic nature of cigarette butts in our waterways. In fact, in the 2006 International Coastal Cleanup project, the number of individual cigarettes and cigarette butts collected amounted to 24.7% of the total number of garbage items collected, over twice as many items as any other category. And in 2012, the problem got worse with cigarette butts contributing over 30% of the waste - again, more than twice any other category.”

On the dangers and prevalence of cigarette butt pollution locally, Dave Wilson, Executive Director of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, confirmed that cigarette butts “are by far the most common item collected at our annual cleanups in Ocean City and on Assateague. Cigarette butts are more than just unsightly. They kill thousands of seabirds annually when they mistake them for food. It’s hard to do a necropsy of a seabird anymore without finding cigarette butts in its stomach. It’s very sad.”

Trash Free Maryland Director, Julie Lawson, said “Cigarette butts are consistently the number one item found at community and stream cleanups across Maryland. Many people mistakenly think they are made of natural materials and will disintegrate, when in fact most filters are plastic. While it's always best to properly dispose of used cigarettes, requiring filters to be biodegradable will keep these toxic butts from persisting in our environment.”

While no large cigarette manufacturer has introduced biodegradable cigarettes into the market, they do exist. Smaller manufacturers like Green Butts (green-butts.com) are beginning to make biodegradable cigarette filters made from natural materials like hemp, flax and cotton, available through their own Green Butts brand or as an alternative to acetate filters that can be used by the larger manufacturers. When this bill goes into effect on January 1, 2015, cigarette manufacturers large and small should be able to produce these less toxic cigarettes.

Delegate Cardin concluded “Cigarette filters are toxic to both humans and the environment. I know this will be viewed as an audacious idea by some, but these are the kinds of forward thinking ideas we need to protect our children and families and to ensure that we continue to have safe air to breath and clean water to drink.”

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