Proposed ordinance would require tobacco manufacturers to clean up its own street litter

See that cigarette butt on the street? Tobacco manufacturers could be cleaning up after their own cigarette litter in California under a model ordinance proposed by ChangeLab Solutions of Oakland, California.

The model ordinance is designed to help local counties and cities curb tobacco litter in their communities. Under the model ordinance, producers of filtered tobacco products, including cigarettes, are prohibited from selling their products unless they agree to one of the following two choices: 1) participate in a tobacco disposal program or 2) pay an annual in-lieu fee. Depending on which entity has the most control over the sale of tobacco in a respective community, “producers” can be defined to encompass manufacturers, importers, distributors, wholesalers and/or retailers.

Changelab Solutions released the model ordinance earlier this February 2016. The document spans twenty-two pages, and at its heart is the idea that tobacco producers can be incentivized to create a tobacco litter waste program. The model ordinance encourages counties and cities to set their own parameters for the litter program. One potential model would be a litter clean-up system jointly operated by a group of producers, and the producers could hire a third-party waste management company to conduct the actual waste control. The scope of the waste management could be as simple as situating ash trays or ash cans throughout the city. It may also be more extensive by providing a collection service of tobacco waste from residential areas, commercial areas, and public spaces. The model ordinance also requires participants to prepare an annual report summarizing the impact of the program.

Producers that decide against participating in the litter program can instead pay an optional in-lieu fee, which is collected annually to cover the reasonable costs of tobacco waste mitigation. Under the model ordinance, the in-lieu fee is calculated to reflect the amount of filtered tobacco products that are sold by the non-participating tobacco producer.

The model ordinance is the first of its kind in the country. Although intriguing, the ordinance rests upon interests that may not be as immediately compelling. The fight against tobacco litter may be subsumed in favor of other battles against the tobacco industry, such as federal cigarette taxes to mitigate overall smoking rates. That, compounded with the influential tobacco lobby, would likely stymie the momentum that the tobacco waste model ordinance would gain from the early stages of its adoption.

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