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New York lawmakers want to ban cigarette filters

ban cigarette filters

ALBANY – Get those cigarette butts outta here!

A group of Democratic state lawmakers want New York to kick cigarettes with single-use filters to the curb and outlaw their sale in the state, saying they are litter and contribution to pollution.

The measure, called the Tobacco Product Waste Reduction Act, would prohibit the sale of cigarettes with single-use filters, attachable single-use filters and single-use electronic cigarettes.

“Cigarette butts are everywhere — littering our streets, our parks, and our waterways, and spreading plastic pollution and toxic chemicals into our environment and our food supply,” Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, one of the bill’s sponsors, said.

The lawmakers contend that filters on cigarettes do not make them any safer and only do damage to the environment. They noted that single-use e-cigarettes contain lithium-ion batteries and dangerous liquid nicotine.

“It’s clear that we need to act,” Krueger said. “It’s time for New York to nip these butts in the bud.”

The single-use items would still be legal to smoke in New York, but illegal to sell. And unfiltered cigarettes or roll your own unfiltered smokes could still be purchased.

Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern, Rockland County, cited state statistics that show that 10,600 youth in New York become new daily smokers and an estimated 280,000 New York youth now alive will die early from smoking.

“Think too, of the detrimental effects cigarette butts have on our environment,” Jaffee, the bill’s Assembly sponsor, said.

“Cigarette butts are a plastic product that significantly contributes to pollution in waterways and beaches and impacts the health of fish and other wildlife as well as the safety of the food supply for humans.”

The proposal comes as New York has sought to crack down on cigarette sales and vaping products.

It has sought a ban on flavored e-cigarettes, which is being held up in court, and raised the smoking age from 18 to 21 before the federal government recently did so nationwide.

Whether the measure will pass both houses of the state Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo is uncertain. But Democrats control state government, and the bill sponsors are Democrats.

Lawmakers will be Albany through June for the six-month session.

The measure would take effect Jan. 1st, 2022.

Health-care advocates applauded the plan.

“Adding plastic filters to cigarettes poses no health benefit to smokers and creates a massive source of toxic tobacco litter,” said Ilana Knopf, director of the Public Health and Tobacco Policy Center at Northeastern University School of Law.

“This bill corrects a history of industry deception and protects both human health and the natural environment.”

There was no immediate comment from the tobacco industry about the law.

Lawmakers cited a 2017 study from the National Cancer Institute which found that “the FDA should consider regulating [filter use], up to and including a ban.”

In 2010, the U.S. joined Canada and the European Union in prohibiting the use of tobacco packaging or advertising using terms like “light,” “mild,” or “low,” which can convey the false impression that filters reduce risk.

State officials said studies have shown that cigarette butts are the most collected item internationally in beach and waterway cleanup programs, with estimates that 845,000 tons of cigarette butts end up as litter annually worldwide.

Since nearly all cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate, a kind of plastic, they are not biodegradable.

Instead, they break down into small particles that end up in waterways, in the bodies of fish and other animals, and eventually back in the food supply.

In 2013, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported receiving over 8,500 reports of children under age 13 poisoned by cigarettes, cigarette butts and other tobacco products, the lawmakers said.

“On top of cutting countless lives too short, cigarettes litter New York beaches and pollute our waterways with their hazardous filters,” said Rich Schrader, state director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.


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