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Heal the Bay Blog

Cigarette filters made from single-use plastic are a huge environmental problem, butt (pun intended), upcoming California legislation offers the first steps toward a solution.

Cigarette Butts are the #1 thing we find at our Nothin’ But Sand Beach Cleanups.

Heal the Bay cleanup volunteers have removed a total of 953,756 cigarette butts from beaches in Los Angeles since 2008. Although we are proud of this impact, the pollution problem is never-ending and what is especially concerning is that the filters in cigarettes are made from plastic, which never goes away. Cigarette butts are not only the most prevalent thing we find on our beach cleanups, they are the most littered item on Earth. For an item so small, they have a massive negative impact on marine habitats.

Not People Friendly, Not Planet Friendly

But aren’t cigarette filters an important public health and safety measure? Contrary to popular belief cigarette filters do not offer health protections. In 1964 the Surgeon General judged cigarette filters to be useless in reducing harm to the average smoker and the health benefits of filters have been called “fraudulent” by the World Health Organization.

Cigarette filters are unhealthy for fish and wildlife too. When cigarette butts with filters are thrown onto the street, they make their way through the storm drain system that flows out to the ocean, carrying the chemicals and toxins found in cigarettes with them. About 90% of filters are made from plastic and end up as micro-plastics in our ocean, which have infiltrated the food web, from fish to humans. Butt, a plan to take single-use plastic filters out of the equation is on the horizon.

Butt, a change is coming!

This year, The Smoking Waste Pollution Prevention Act looks to phase out the sale of single-use, non-rechargeable vaping devices and cigarette/cigar “filters” in California. When our state makes big moves toward change it gives other states the opportunity to follow and before you know it there could be nation-wide change. Use your voice to bring this change to California first. How can you help?

Call or email your California Legislators and ask them to vote YES on AB 1690 at the Assembly Health Committee on March 29 (it takes 3 minutes).

  1. Find your rep here: Find Address (ca.gov)
  2. Call your rep and say:
    1. My name is (your name).
    2. I live (state the city you live in).
    3. I want you to vote YES on AB 1690!
  3. Email your rep and say:
    1. My name is (your name).
    2. I live in (city you live in).
    3. I want you to vote YES on AB 1690

Or download this long form email template you can customize and send a message to your assembly member that could make a huge impact.

Download Email Template

Put an end to butts on the beach (the bad kind!)

Spread the word and share what you’ve learned on social media using the hashtags #AB1690, #CircularEconomy, and #CAMustLEAD! Most people have no idea that cigarette butts are so detrimental to the environment, but when we share what we know we can empower others to help make change.