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TOBACCO EDUCATION AND RESEARCH OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE (TEROC)

Achieving Health Equity: Toward a Commercial Tobacco-Free California, 2021-2022

Objective 5: Minimize the secondary effects of tobacco and cannabis on people and the environment

For decades, governments have educated the public on the dangers associated with improperly discarded cigarette butts. The human, economic, and environmental toll of wildfires caused by discarded butts can be immense. Other dangers associated with tobacco waste are less widely understood but no less important. Cigarette butts, e-cigarette pods, and other types of tobacco product waste (TPW) are nonbiodegradable and contain many dangerous chemicals, making them a scourge on the environment. Upstream solutions to this problem, reducing waste at the source by limiting consumption, are needed to stem the flow of discarded products and components into communities before they can harm the environment.

Great progress has been made in recent years to protect California residents from secondhand smoke exposure. Yet loopholes in clean air laws remain, creating hazardous living and working conditions for many Californians. 

Image collection of discarded tobacco buds


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Cigarette butts accounted for 37 percent of the beach litter collected on California Coastal Cleanup Days from 1988 to 2017.62 Despite progress in making beaches smoke-free, cigarette butts remain the most prevalent form of litter on the California coast.63 The San Francisco Estuary Institute developed a standardized approach for tracking tobacco waste and e-waste bound for California's waterways. The method is designed to allow people to monitor the amount and types of waste collected or not collected by conventional trash management, using practical and innovative techniques including drone surveillance. Tobacco control programs can apply the methodology to quantify the amount of TPW in their local areas.


Individual using video drone surveillance


​​ ​References

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63. Ocean Conservancy. Together, We Are Team Ocean: 2020 Report.  September 2020.

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65. Public Health Law Center. Tobacco Product Waste: Frequently Asked Questions.  August 2020.

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67. California Constitution Article XIII C, §2(d).

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70. California Labor Code, §6464.5.

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76. California Civil Code, §1947.52020.

77. California Air Resources Board. California identifies secondhand smoke as a "toxic air contaminant." 2006; (https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/es/news/california-identifies-secondhand-smoke-toxic-air-contaminant). Accessed August 18, 2020.

78. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2006.


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