Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris released the following comment regarding legislation to ban single-use vape pens and tobacco filters:
“As a mom, I am so sad that kids are being duped into thinking single use vape pens are safe,” said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Irvine). “Not only are these vape pens toxic for our bodies, they are toxic for our environment. With the rise in fires caused by these disposable batteries, it’s high time for a ban.”
Assemblywoman Luz Rivas (D-San Fernando Valley), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources, introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 1690 at a virtual press conference alongside the bill’s joint authors, Assemblymembers Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay) and Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Irvine), and its sponsor, the National Stewardship Action Council. AB 1690 prohibits the sale of single-use vapes and tobacco filters found in cigarettes and cigars to result in the use of less wasteful alternatives. This legislation will protect the public health and environment from the hazardous and destructive impacts of these products. AB 1690’s principal co-authors include Assemblymembers Phil Ting and Cristina Garcia, with co-authors including Assemblymembers Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, Marc Berman, Tasha Boerner Horvath, Laura Friedman, Alex Lee, Adrin Nazarian, Bill Quirk, and Buffy Wicks, as well as Senators Ben Allen, Josh Becker, Monique Limón, Josh Newman, Anthony Portantino, and Scott Wiener.
“For more than half a century, tobacco filters have caused a public and environmental health crisis that found renewed vigor in recent years as the tobacco industry began to sell electronic vape products,” said Assemblywoman Luz Rivas. “Today, my colleagues and I have introduced critical legislation that keeps Californians healthy and cleans up our environment by banning the sale of tobacco filters and single-use electronic vapes. Our planet is at a critical tipping point – cigarette filters destroy our environment unlike any other discarded waste and the toxic chemicals found in electronic vapes seep into our fragile ecosystems, all while also damaging individuals’ health with hazardous smoke. I want to thank the National Stewardship Action Council for sponsoring this bill and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Legislature to ensure we keep California healthy and clean.”
In 1964, the Surgeon General of the United States declared that tobacco filters used in cigarettes and cigars are useless in reducing harm to the average smoker. However, their destructive impact on the environment has proved incredibly pervasive. Plastic fibers found in tobacco filters break down into microplastics over time and leach toxic chemicals into our ecosystem, including the soils used to grow our food.
“The tobacco industry added single-use filters to create the illusion of a healthy cigarette, despite filters providing no health benefits. This deceptive marketing ploy has worked for decades, resulting in non-biodegradable cigarette butts becoming the most ubiquitous type of litter collected in California,” said Assemblymember Mark Stone. “This proposal will create a safer and cleaner world by eliminating the problem of cigarette waste, and by preventing the emerging waste source of single-use vape products from presenting similarly serious environmental problems in the future.”
Cigarette filters are the most pervasive form of litter worldwide. Of the 6 trillion globally consumed cigarettes, approximately 4.5 trillion cigarette filters are littered into the environment each year. Our coastal ecosystems face significant perils from cigarette and vape waste. Improperly disposed cigarette filters and single-use vapes seep toxic chemicals into the environment, pollute water, and harm wildlife. The United Nations World Health Organization noted that within 96 hours, just one tobacco filter could kill 50% of the saltwater and freshwater fish exposed to its toxins.
“As a mom, I am so sad that kids are being duped into thinking single-use vape pens are safe,” said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris. “Not only are these vape pens toxic for our bodies, they are toxic for our environment. With the rise in fires caused by these disposable batteries, it’s high time for a ban.”
Local governments and state agencies bear enormous annual costs to clean up littered cigarette filters and single-use vapes. In the City of Los Angeles alone, estimates indicate that the city incurs $19 million a year in cigarette filter clean-up costs. Throughout the state, cigarette litter forces public agencies to spend over $41 million annually in taxpayer funds on sanitation services. Discarded vapes, in particular, force hazardous waste disposal costs onto our under-funded schools, as vapes are popular amongst younger smokers.
“AB 1690 gets straight to reducing the cost of pollution through prevention by banning single-use vaping products and tobacco filters,” said Jordan Wells, Director of Advocacy and Communications for the National Stewardship Action Council. “These single-use plastic products are unnecessary, yet cause an immense externalized cost of litter, water pollution, and blight. AB 1690 eliminates this unnecessary and littered plastic pollution at the source to protect public health and the environment while saving taxpayers money.”
As of January 2021, the cities of Beverly Hills and Manhattan Beach have banned the sale of tobacco products. The Statewide Microplastics Strategy includes a recommendation that the state prohibits the sale of single-use tobacco products that include, but are not limited to, cigarette filters and electronic vape waste. Additionally, the Statewide Commission on Recycling Markets and Curbside Recycling recommended that single-use products using lithium-ion batteries, such as electronic vapes, should be banned. The New York State Legislature is also currently considering a bill similar to AB 1690.
“The single-use, plastic cigarette filter is a fraud foisted on smokers for decades and an environmental insult that can be prevented,” said Dr. Thomas Novotny, Professor at San Diego State University and CEO of the Cigarette Waste Pollution Project. “California can lead the way to reduce the environmental blight caused by single-use tobacco products while supporting progress towards a smoke-free society.”
“Cigarette butts are by far the most common item polluting our beaches and waterways,” said Nicholas Mallos, Senior Director of the Trash Free Seas Program at the Ocean Conservancy. “In fact, cigarette butts made up close to 30% of the trash collected by volunteers across the state on Coastal Cleanup Day in 2020. Small and notoriously difficult to clean up, cigarette butts contain plastic filters that never break down, leaching toxic chemicals and microplastics into our environment indefinitely. Banning single-use filters is undoubtedly going to keep Californians and the beaches and wildlife they love healthier.”
AB 1690 is sponsored by the National Stewardship Action Council. The bill is also supported by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), Association of California Healthcare District, Breathe Southern California, Californians Against Waste, California Product Stewardship Council, Cigarette Butt Pollution Project, Families Advocating for Chemical and Toxics, Safety (FACTS), Heal the Bay, Northern California Recycling Association, Oceana, Ocean Conservancy, Plastic Oceans International, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Recology, Republic Services, Save Our Shores, Seventh Generation Advisors, Surfrider, the 5 Gyres Institute, the Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education (COARE), Upstream, Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation, and Zero Waste USA.